|The Front Bowls of
Timber official says Vail had resources to
fight beetles but failed
October 7, 2005
SUMMIT COUNTY — The outlook for Summit County’s
fight to save its trees from pine-beetle infestation is somewhat
bleak, according to Colorado State Forester Mike Harvey.
“It’s going to be dramatic,” Harvey said, anticipating that tree
mortality could continue to climb.
In past beetle outbreaks, each infested tree might send out enough
beetles to infest another two trees nearby. That has climbed statewide
to seven trees, he said. That means for every red tree visible this
summer, as many as seven more nearby trees could die next year.
It’s hard to predict if and when the spread will slow in Summit
County. Altitude, previously thought to be a limiting factor, does not
seem to be slowing the advance, U.S. Forest Service entomologist Bob
“Historically, above 8,800 feet we didn’t see widespread outbreaks …
but what we thought was a limiting factor is not holding up,” Cain
said, pointing out a trend of warming temperatures at higher
elevations. “We’re also seeing outbreaks farther north, in British
Columbia, that we’ve never seen before.”
Thinning stands of trees is also less effective with the larger
epidemic, Cain added. Based on the trends, he said, future activities
should focus on clear cutting where applicable, letting fires burn
where it’s safe, thinning to try to prevent outbreaks, being
aggressive in treating spot infections and spraying pesticides.
In Eagle County lodgepole mortality is likely to reach 80 percent to
90 percent in some areas, said Cal Wettstein, Holy Cross district
ranger. And that could eventually be the case for at least parts of
Summit County, he predicted.
Mark Morgan of the Colorado Timber Industry Association said the Vail
Valley represents a lost opportunity in the fight against the bugs,
“Talk about snatching the defeat from the jaws of victory,” Morgan
“They dropped the ball on the one-yard line,” he continued, explaining
that, if there ever was a community with the resources to aggressively
tackle the problem, it’s Vail.
“You’re talking about a place that’s talking about under-grounding
I-70 so they don’t have to hear it. They have the money,” Morgan said.
“In 10 years, you’re going to be skiing the Front Bowls of Vail.
You’re going to be able to ski anywhere, because there aren’t going to
be any trees left.”