Friday, June 10, 2011

Feds to continue battle with beetles

Helicopter dispersal of MCH flakes could start today


By EXPRESS STAFF
Express Staff Writer

If the weather cooperates, a helicopter contractor hired by the U.S. Forest Service could begin flying today, June 10, to disperse MCH flakes on Bald Mountain to protect large trees from Douglas-fir bark beetles.

According to a news release from the Forest Service, the project is expected to take one or two days to complete. The MCH flakes are considered effective for about 55 days.

Unlike last year, there will be only one application, and 1,650 acres will be treated, rather than the 2,000 acres treated in 2010. However, a Forest Service crew on skis stapled longer-lasting MCH bubble caps to larger, easily accessible Douglas firs on Baldy this spring.

"We hope this proves to be just as effective as two, more costly helicopter flights," Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson said.

Sun Valley Co. is a project partner. To provide for public safety, federal lands on Bald Mountain will be closed to all public use during the days the helicopter is flying.

Nelson said weather conditions will determine when the helicopter will disperse flakes, and flights could start as early as dawn, go as late as half an hour after dusk and occur any day through June 23.

"We appreciate the understanding of Bald Mountain recreationists who may be inconvenienced by the temporary closure of Bald Mountain access while the helicopter is in operation," he said.

The staging area for the flights will be west of St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center up Cold Springs. The helicopter will use the area to refuel and reload MCH flakes in its distribution apparatus.

Nelson said that since it's impossible to protect every tree on Baldy, people should expect to see some new red, dying trees this summer and next winter.

"However, our research shows last year's MCH flake application did reduce Douglas-fir mortality compared to if no treatment had occurred," he said.

A report on last year's application effectiveness can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5269868.pdf. Paper copies of the report are available at the Ketchum Ranger Station.




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