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.
advance on SNRA
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.
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).
Express Staff Writer
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
foreman Filbert said the fuel loading of dead lodgepole pines "isnít
standing dead trees are perfect candlesórockets," he said.
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.
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.
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."
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
will probably be implemented for the next five years, SNRA Forester Jim
the goal is to reduce the buildup of hazardous fuels in areas where wild
lands and developed properties meet.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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