Bark Beetles Force a New Approach to Forest Health

February 2011

For a good look at the offensive ruin caused by pine beetles, look no further than Larimer County. For the second consecutive year, a forest-health survey paints a stunningly reddish picture of northern Colorado, where beetle infestations have increased "tenfold" in ponderosa pines, says an entomologist with the Colorado State Forest Service (via the Loveland Connection). The tiny bark-burrowing bugs have become a central focus of a new plan to improve the health and resilience of forests across the nation, according to the Denver Post. In Colorado, for instance, the effort would be focused on ways to ensure that fewer forested areas are dominated by same-species trees so that infestations aren't so devastating.

The so-called "planning rules" announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees forested areas, would replace a system of rules devised three decades ago. The idea is based on finding balance between recreation, industry, and protection of environmentally sensitive resources. Congressman Jared Polis, a Democrat who represents the state's 2nd Congressional District, is optimistic the plan will allow for better local decision-making. And a representative from the Wilderness Society thinks the new rules are headed "in the right direction." Meanwhile, state wildlife managers have relocated a small group of rams and ewes from a recently deforested region west of Colorado Springs to an area southwest of Denver recovering from the 2002 Hayman Fire (also via the Post).