We’re experiencing a die-off of pine trees on the hills above town. There are at least three epicenters of bark beetle induced tree mortality, and probably many more single dead or dying trees scattered across the community. The extended and intense drought conditions have weakened trees to the point they are easy targets for this species of beetle known as western pine beetle
. A major outbreak started last summer near City property at the Red Queen Trailhead, where the Crowson Reservoir tank is located at the intersection of Terrace St and Ashland Loop Road. There are over 50 dead and dying pines on City property and an additional 30 or more on three adjacent private lots.
After consultation with a local forest entomologist and our City forestry consultant, we regret that infected trees have to be cut and removed...and some are large trees. We have cut into the bark of some of the trees and there are both overwintering adult beetles and beetle larvae lying in wait just under the bark. When the weather is consistently warm, the larvae will mature and leave the trees in droves looking for new, green trees to attack. Given the ongoing drought, it’s likely they’ll find weak trees on adjacent City and private properties to attack, perpetuating the die off. Western pine beetle can have as many as three generations per year, so we need to not only cut the trees, but remove all of the trunks away from the area to avoid a massive hatch of beetles this spring into summer. Though this is good risk management and follows recommendations, it is not a guarantee that more trees won’t die in the coming year due to the extreme drought, already weakened trees, and elevated beetle populations across our area. Some trees are still in the middle of beetle attack and appear mostly green, but with dead tops. Many of these will have to be cut and hauled away after careful evaluation.
Even if the beetles weren’t in the trees right now, we’d still be faced with a huge impending load of fuels, whether in standing dead trees or when limbs and trunks starting hitting the ground (and some have already). The fire danger would quickly increase, putting neighboring homes at higher fire risk. The well-used Red Queen trail winds through the trees and we are also obligated to remove dead trees that pose a public hazard to trail users and to the adjacent water storage tank as well.
The City has contracted with a well respected logging operator who has worked on City lands before. They will cut and remove the trees and another forestry crew clean up and burn branches and needles on approved burn days. There will be some soil disturbance during the operation that will be mitigated at the end of work, and the trail will be restored to function. The adjacent intersection at Terrace Street and Ashland Loop Road will be closed during the day for three days, which will start March 14th.
The wood will be hauled away on log trucks to be cut primarily for firewood and a small amount of salvageable lumber. The value of the wood is diminished by rot and a fungus that stains the wood blue. Questions about the project can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.