TOWN OF VAIL TO MITIGATE PINE BEETLE KILL ON 29 ACRES OF LAND ON THE
UPPER BENCH OF DONOVAN PARK

Source:  Town of Vail Public Information Office 8/29/05

Vail)—Beginning Tuesday, Aug. 30 the Town of Vail will partner with the
U.S. and Colorado State Forest Service to remove trees that are dead or
infested by mountain pine beetles on approximately 29 acres of
Town-owned land, located on the upper bench of Donovan Park. As part of
a program known as the Town of Vail Forest Health Project, this will be
the first of many phases to mitigate trees infested or killed by the
mountain pine beetle on Town-owned land.

The 29-acre project will take five to six weeks and the town has hired a
local tree cutting firm, a logging company and an organization known as
Juniper Valley wildfire crew to cut and pile approximately 1,000 dead or
beetle infested lodgepole trees and infected aspen trees on the upper
bench. Many of the downed trees will be hauled out of the area, while
any remaining limbs and tree tops will be piled for a prescribed burning
to be scheduled late this fall or early spring when conditions are
optimal. The prescribed burn will be managed by the U.S. Forest Service
and paid for by the Town. Cost of the project is approximately $144,000,
with the Town incurring $125,000. Benefits of the project will include a
reduction in wildfire fuels, aspen tree enhancement and maintenance and
rejuvenation and vegetative diversity of the forest, which will begin to
be noticeable during the next 20 years.

According to Phil Bowden, wildland fuels management specialist with the
U.S. Forest Service, the mountain pine beetle is a native insect to
Colorado’s pine forest with outbreaks occurring every 20 to 30 years,
such as the outbreak occurring in Vail and the surrounding White River
National Forest. The scale of the outbreak is enormous and is not only
occurring in Colorado, but runs from Mexico to Canada. Bowden says the
beetles attack older, more mature trees such as those surrounding Vail
and once a beetle infests a tree, there is nothing that can be done to
save the tree. “Since the lodgepoles are older and more susceptible, the
population of pine beetles has increased,” said Bowden. “The rates
beetles spread are nearly impossible to predict, making it difficult to
prevent an outbreak. There currently are more than 75,000 trees infested
in the LionsHead to Dowd Junction area alone, and during the next five
years the area surrounding Vail could continue to loose hundreds of
thousands of trees from infestation. As these trees begin to die, so
will the pine beetles.”

There is little that can be done to landscape areas as the trees begin
to die says Bowden, and the focus then becomes wildfire prevention. When
the needles on the infested trees are a reddish color, they become prime
wildfire fuel creating a need to mitigate and rejuvenate infested areas.
Following the death of these trees through either natural process or
cutting and logging, the forest becomes more diverse, and in turn,
healthier, says Bowden. “We can’t prevent trees from dying so visually
there’s little we can do,” said Bowden. “It’s much more important to
focus our work on removing those trees that are a wildfire danger. A
more diverse forest with varied trees tends to create a more resilient
landscape from both the effects of wildfire and insect outbreaks.”

Additionally, aspen trees in the area infected from fungus, damaged by
wildlife and other causes will also be cut and hauled. According to
Bowden, these trees prevent new growth from occurring and cutting them
will help rejuvenate the area quicker, plus the aspen stands are highly
fire resistant making them important to the health of the forest.

Many of the homes in Vail are surrounded by infested trees and according
to Vail Fire Department Fire Technician/Wildland Coordinator Tom Talbot,
residents and homeowners should take actions to address the impacts of
pine beetles on private lands. Infested or dead trees that are within 30
feet of a home are considered a wildfire danger and should be removed
under the Colorado State Forest Service Firewise Guidelines, says
Talbot. Homeowners are encouraged to contact the Vail Fire Department
for a free assessment to determine the need for treatment around
residences. “After an assessment is made, we can work to find solutions
and even seek funds to help with mitigation efforts,” said Talbot. “The
results will be a healthier forest and make it easier for firefighters
to protect the home if needed.”

Per Town of Vail Code, homeowners wishing to cut healthy or unhealthy
trees must receive Town approval. There is no application fee to remove
trees infested or killed by pine beetles. For details, the Town Code is
available on-line at www.vailgov.com.

This is not the first program the Town has completed to help prevent the
spread of pine beetles. In 2003, the Town worked in cooperation with the
U.S. and Colorado State Forest Service in the Bighorn neighborhood to
create defensible space around homes and adjacent public lands. The
project minimized wildfire hazard within the area by treating, reducing
and/or clearing vegetation and hazardous fuels, such as infested and
dead trees. The Town also completed a fuels reduction and defensible
space project in 2003 in the Chamonix neighborhood in West Vail, as well
as on public lands adjacent to the Vail Falls Condominiums in East Vail.
Pending funding approval, the Town will continue to work east and west
along the Town’s border and Forest Service land to remove infested and
beetle killed trees, as well as improve aspen stands in the area.

For more information, contact the Vail Fire Department at 479-2254; the
Town’s environmental health office at 479-2333, or the Forest Service at
827-5715. For more information on the mountain pine beetle, go to
www.FireWise.org/co/.