Bitterroot National Forest becomes more aggressive on beetle problem

Posted: March 28, 2012

Source: KPAX

Mountain Pine Beetle, Blue Stain PineHAMILTON, MT- It’s not as bad as in other national forests lands around the Rockies, but managers of the Bitterroot National Forest say they’re getting more aggressive to stopping the problem of pine beetles before they get out of.hand.

That was the message Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor Julie King had for Ravalli County commissioners as she met with the board last week to review forest management issues.

Commissioners, and Ravalli County residents have been voicing increasing concerns that the pine beetle problem is getting worse in the Bitterroot, and they’re worried what that means for fire safety, and what’s left of the forest products industry.

King told the board field research shows the pine beetle problem is growing, but still not as bad as elsewhere in the region.

“They are saying there are epidemic levels across the Rocky Mountain Region, which is Region 1. And they’re calling the Bitterroot sort of a “pre-epidemic” overall. But we do have some pockets of what could be epidemic,” King explained.

That includes the West Fork of the Bitterroot, in stands of timber that weren’t burned in the massive Saddle Complex Fire last year, and around Lake Como.

A USFS contractor began cutting trees around Lake Como last week removing beetle killed timber in an effort to leave health trees and improve safety fo visitors.

King says additional projects are coming this year, including logging infested trees near Lost Trail Pass and applying sprays and other treatments in infested areas.

He told commissioners one advantage the Bitterroot forest may have is a diversity of timber, which includes trees the beetles don’t attack.

“We feel that some of the good news is that we have some species diversity in the forest. And I’ve heard concern from folks that say ‘gosh, there’s not going to be any trees left’, maybe 10% of less than what we’ve got right now. And that isn’t entirely true because we have some other species, Douglas Fir and Spruce. And so it will look different. There’s no doubt about that.”

The agency says it will post areas where trails or roads may be hazardous because of larger stands of beetle killed trees.