Mountain News 

Beetles play in Washington

GRANBY, Colo. — Lodgepole pine trees killed by bark beetles are ample along the I-70 corridor in Summit County and in Vail. But the dead trees there may be trifling compared with the Winter Park-Grand Lake-Kremmling area.

A reporter for the local newspaper chain in Grand County recently toured the beetle-killed area by air with local pilots, and one photo is riveting. The forest below on the shores of Grand Lake looked like aspen trees in spectacular fall colors. Most of the forest looked to be dead or dying.

While a good many – although not all – people fret about the aesthetics of dead trees, the greater worry is about the potential for massive fire. "We’re definitely living right in a time bomb," said Mike Jolovich, the pilot.

That’s also been the word from any number of elected and other public officials. Reversing the position of the resort communities from even five years ago, county commissioners and others have journeyed to Washington D.C. twice this year to see changes in federal policy. While the locals railed against below-cost timber sales in years past, that’s now exactly what they want. What’s more, they hope to see money allocated to the Forest Service for timber removal.

In Washington, the Congressional delegation from Colorado seems to be unifying behind legislation. And, from the local perspective, they’re saying the right things. "The fire hazard created by bark beetles will impact our communities soon," said U.S. Senator Ken Salazar.

An outcome of that visit is that a task force of local officials has been delegated to draft a bill to be introduced into Congress. In addition, they hope to get Mike Johanns, the secretary of agriculture, which is the department in which the Forest Service is located, to Colorado for a tour of the blighted forests.

Just where the felled trees will go remains uncertain. Summit County is investigating a biomass plant at Frisco, and Grand County has talked about a biomass plant to heat the courthouse in Hot Sulphur Springs. Ditto in Eagle County and its courthouse in Eagle.

In the Grand Lake, at the western gate to Rocky Mountain National Park, some see a silver lining in the dead trees. "If anything, it’s opened up the panoramic views and let the sunshine in," reported Donna Ready, owner of Mountain Lake Properties.

Still, standing dead trees can draw down home prices anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per home, she said.

Beetles at the gates

EDWARDS, Colo. — Entire hillsides of lodgepole pine along the I-70 corridor in Colorado continue to turn rust as bark beetles continue to have their way with the old and vulnerable forests. In response, a gated community called Cordillera, which is located about 20 miles west of Vail, is spending nearly $500,000 to spray trees or cut them down. Spraying trees cost $11 to $12 per tree, whereas removing a tree costs $150 to $200, notes the Vail Daily.

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