Spruce bee­tle dam­age up 4th straight year

The in­fes­ta­tion of moun­tain pine bee­tles, how­ever, has sub­sided.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By David Migoya

The dev­as­ta­tion caused by spruce bee­tles across Colorado forests ac­cel­er­ated for a fourth con­sec­u­tive year, ac­cord­ing to a new sur­vey, while the once wide­spread in­fes­ta­tion of moun­tain pine bee­tles has largely sub­sided.

The spruce bee­tle was found to have newly in­fected 182,000 acres of pre­vi­ously un­af­fected forests, bring­ing the num­ber of acres cur­rently im­pacted to 409,000 across the state, ac­cord­ing to the an­nual aerial sur­vey con­ducted by the U. S. For­est Ser­vice and the Colorado State For­est Ser­vice.

The bug has caused vary­ing de­grees of tree mor­tal­ity to nearly 1.6 mil­lion acres across the state since 1996, though still far less than the moun­tain pine bee­tle.

Two other de­fo­lia­tors of conifers — the western spruce bud­worm and the Dou­glas- fir tus­sock moth— also ex­panded their reach last year, touch­ing nearly 340,000 acres of forests.

Dam­age by the moun­tain pine bee­tle, which has rav­aged more than 3.3mil­lion acres of Colorado forests since 1996, has dwin­dled to about 5,000 new im­pacted acres, and the epi­demic has ended in some ar­eas as ma­ture pine trees have been de­pleted, the sur­vey notes.

The pine bee­tle in­fes­ta­tion that ran across Colorado, Wy­oming and South Dakota has af­fected an area roughly the size of Mas­sachusetts.

“The les­son we can take away from the ex­ten­sive in­sect and dis--

ease dam­age we’ve seen in Colorado over the past two decades is the need for proac­tively tak­ing care of our forests,” State Forester Mike Lester, who is also di­rec­tor of the Colorado State For­est Ser­vice, said in a news re­lease. “The best time to take ac­tions to ad­dress long- term for­est health is be­fore a ma­jor out­break starts, and not af­ter.”

The For­est Ser­vice con­tin­ues to treat thou­sands of acres through thin­ning and pre­scribed burns as part of its wild­fire mit­i­ga­tion and for­est man­age­ment ef­forts.

Much of the rea­son for the spruce bee­tle prob­lem con­tin­ues to be blown­down trees, drought stress, warmer tem­per­a­tures, an ex­ten­sive num­ber of older trees and a high den­sity level, the For­est Ser­vice said.

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