Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Feds continue battle against beetles

Forest Service to close Baldy during application of pheramone


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

A helicopter flies by a forested hillside in preparation for an MCH flake drop in May. The helicopters are part of a project to stop or slow the advance of an emerging outbreak of Douglas-fir bark beetles. Photo by Mountain Express

Access to Bald Mountain will be closed for as-yet-undetermined days next week as the Ketchum Ranger District begins the second battle in a war against Douglas-fir bark beetles.

The Forest Service is scheduled to begin the second application of methylcyclohexenone (MCH) flakes in the Bald Mountain area on Monday, June 28. The application will require closing of all Bald Mountain trails for about two days as helicopters fly over the area from 6 a.m. to after dusk.

Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson said flights may occur any day between June 28 and July 2, depending on weather.

MCH is a pheromone naturally produced by the beetles to let other beetles know that there is no more room in a tree, thereby preventing overpopulation in a single tree. By replicating MCH and applying it to trees that have yet to be infested, the Forest Service hopes to trick beetles into staying away from certain areas.

District Ranger Joe Miczulski said MCH flakes have never been known to harm people, animals or the environment. According to a news release issued by the district, the trail closures are due to public safety concerns regarding the helicopters.

This will be the last application of MCH flakes in 2010. Forest Service crews will monitor the population of Douglas-fir bark beetles through the summer to determine if flakes will be dispersed in 2011.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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