local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 classifieds
 calendar
 last week
 recreation
 subscriptions
 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info

 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 homefinder
 sv catalogs
 

 

 hemingway

Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8065 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Homefinder

Mountain Jobs

Formula Sports

Idaho Conservation League

Westridge

Windermere

Gary Carr...The Carr Man!

Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals


For the week of May 15 - 21, 2002

  News

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is proposing to fight the mountain pine beetle, or clear dead wood it has left behind, in locations throughout the Sawtooth Valley and Stanley Basin.

 

Pine beetles 
advance on SNRA

Forest Service proposes action


Public meetings scheduled

Sawtooth National Forest managers are proposing to respond to a mountain pine beetle outbreak on the Sawtooth National Recreation Area as soon as an environmental assessment is completed. As part of that EA, the U.S. Forest Service will host two public meetings this month:

∑  May 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Stanley Community Center;

∑  May 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber and Visitors Bureau meeting room.

Copies of the Forest Serviceís "scoping" document are available for review and comments. Copies of the document are available from Sawtooth National Forest offices in Burley, Twin Falls, Ketchum, Fairfield and Stanely. The document is available online at (www.fs.fed.us/r4/sawtooth).


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Like a slow-moving wave of tree killing fire, mountain pine beetles are sweeping through the upper Salmon River valley, leaving a carpet of red-brown coniferous skeletons in their wake.

And the dead trees left by the beetles constitute a sizable amount of dry kindling, ready to flare if a lightning strike or unattended campfire break free, Ketchum Ranger District fire engine foreman Matt Filbert said.

The mountain pine beetle, a tiny insect about the size of a grain of rice, is killing thousands of acres of lodgepole pine trees in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and across the Northwest.

"This mountain pine beetle is probably the most powerful insect we deal with in the Northwest, in that it probably has the potential to kill more trees than any of the bark beetles we deal with," said Forest Service entomologist Ralph Thier. "Itís not anything new. Itís a native insect. It has a full complement of prey species and predators. This is what it does."

Mountain pine beetles, though always present, began attacking lodgepole pine trees in the Salmon River canyon at an elevated pace about five years ago. Since then, the insects have been sweeping upriver in the Sawtooth and White Cloud foothills and have moved into the Pettit and Alturas lakes region of the Sawtooth Valley. The numbers of trees killed is approaching levels that havenít been attained since 1977, when about 200,000 trees were killed in one year. Last year the beetles killed 60,000 to 70,000 trees, but that figure is rising almost exponentially.

"We are experiencing an epidemic attack of mountain pine beetle," said SNRA Area Ranger Deb Cooper. "The result is an accumulation of hazardous fuels. We are very concerned about this buildup of dead material, particularly in and near areas where wildlands interface with homes and developed recreation sites."

Fire foreman Filbert said the fuel loading of dead lodgepole pines "isnít good."

"The standing dead trees are perfect candlesórockets," he said.

Though mountain pine beetles are a native part of the ecosystem, measures must be taken to reduce fuel loading and to save specimen trees in selected areas, forest managers said.

In a program dubbed the "Red Tree Fuels Reduction Project," a team of Forest Service resource specialists are examining the extent of the situation and mapping potential avenues to follow in response. As part of the project, the forest service has kicked off a public "scoping" process to help determine how to proceed.

"We have started the required environmental analysis process, which will help us examine the consequences and tradeoffs in order to make the best decisions for resolving this problem," Cooper said. "A major part of this process is initial and continuing involvement of the public as we develop issues to be addressed in the environmental analysis."

Thus far the Forest Service has identified seven potential project areas in the Sawtooth Valley and around Stanley. A total of approximately 3,500 acres, where the problem is the most serious, are included. Treatments to be considered include tree thinning, pruning, use of prescribed fire, slash pile burning, patch cutting and removing beetle-killed timber using commercial harvest.

Measures will probably be implemented for the next five years, SNRA Forester Jim Rineholt said.

Cooper said the goal is to reduce the buildup of hazardous fuels in areas where wild lands and developed properties meet.

"We want to reduce the potential for wildfire to damage homes and other public and private developments," she said. "Currently, the possibility of high intensity wildfire is increasing due to the large amount of dead and dying trees killed by the insects and the natural accumulation of forest fuels. We must do everything we can to increase fire fighter and public safety."

Cooper added that the Forest Service needs to take actions to maintain and improve vegetative cover on public and private lands in order to protect and enhance the SNRAís scenic attributes. Forest managers will also examine steps to reduce the potential for mountain pine beetle outbreaks now and in the future.

Mountain pine beetles attack living trees and construct egg galleries beneath bark. When eggs hatch just several weeks later, the larvae chew feeding galleries to the cambium layer of the tree, effectively girdling the host. The result is that some dead trees may appear to be alive and take a season to turn red-brown. The beetles prefer lodgepole and white bark pines.

Thier said mountain pine beetles are always present in the forest. However, when trees are weakened from things like extended drought, or have reached and exceeded maturity, they are prime targets for attack by insects.

The infestation under way on the SNRA is much more significant than the one in the mid 1980s. In some areas, more than 70 to 80 percent of the trees are dead or dying.

"With respect to the current infestation, there are still a lot of potential host trees for the beetle in this area," Thier said. "A lot more trees are going to die. I think this thingís going to continue to roll."

How far they will roll, however, will be limited by the forestís composition, which changes with elevation gains. Thier said the beetles may not go much past Alturas lake, where the forest changes from predominately lodgepole to predominately Douglas fir.

But higher elevation white bark pine is susceptible, too, and if the beetles make the jump, significant portions of forest in the Sawtooth and White Cloud mountains, and on Galena Summit, could fall prey to the beetles.

"I think it is very important to point out that we are not in a war to attack the bugs," Thier said. "Somethingís going to kill these trees, whether itís fire, insects or wind."

"What we need to do first is focus on reducing the accumulation of hazardous fuels created by the current insect attack in order to protect homes, lives and developments. At the same time, we need to put long-term management in place to change the characteristics of these stands of trees."

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.