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Rocky Mountain National Park To Resume Battle With Bark Beetles


An ongoing battle with bark beetles in Rocky Mountain National Park is set to resume in April, when crews will begin spraying an insecticide on as many as 5,000 "high-value" trees.

The battle against the beetles has been going on for several years. Last fall park officials declared that the beetle outbreak was at "outbreak levels throughout the park. The park's priorities for mitigation of the effects of beetles are focused on removing hazard trees and hazard fuels related to the protection of life and property.

This year park crews will resume spraying, removing hazard trees, prescribed burns, pheromone treatments, and implementing temporary closures in a variety of park locations.  

Starting in early April and ending by Memorial Day weekend, park crews plan to apply a Carbaryl-based insecticide to up to 5,000 high-value trees to protect them from bark beetles.

Treatment will occur in the following developed areas of the park: Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and Headquarters, Moraine Park Visitor Center, Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Aspenglen, Moraine Park, and Glacier Basin Campgrounds, Sprague Lake Picnic Area, Bighorn Ranger Station, McGraw Ranch, Holzwarth Historic Site, Leiffer Cabin, Kaley Cottages, Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, and the east and west side park service housing areas. 

Last year, almost 5,000 trees were treated and nearly all of these trees were not attacked by bark beetles, according to a park release.

This spring the total number of treated trees will be between 4,000 and 5,000, depending on site conditions. Insecticide will be applied to individual trees to repel beetle attacks. The Longs Peak Campground will remain chemical free for this year. 

The park is also treating up to 300 high value limber pine trees with verbenone pheromone packets to minimize infestation from bark beetles.  Limber pine trees in the park are currently at risk of mountain pine beetle infestation and infection from white pine blister rust.  Research is being conducted to identify if any limber pine trees within the park are resistant to white pine blister rust.

Park staff and contracted resources will conduct hazard tree mitigation through tree removal throughout the year.  

Planned project sites include: Sprague Lake Trail, the Wild Basin Area, Old Fall River Road, Coyote Valley Trail and Trailhead, Shadow Mountain Lookout, Holzwarth Historic Site, and Timber Lake Trailhead.

Smaller scale, selective hazard tree removals should be anticipated at trailheads, parking areas, picnic areas, roadside pullouts, campgrounds and visitor centers. Temporary site closures can be expected at smaller sites to facilitate safe and efficient project completion.


I'm not happy with this activity. The rise of the pine beetle is a natural process, adopting the ecosystem to a changing climate. And the ecosystem will be able to adopt. There will be a new forest eventually. With different tree species, particularely decidous trees will grow in higher elevations.

It might take 50, 100 or 200 years, though. Which is irrelevant for nature, but a long, long time for man. The question is: What are National Parks for? Should they preserve natural processes or landscapes? Landscapes, the humans have grown fond of.

Last year, my wife and I had planned to go hiking at Rocky Mountain National Park since we only only toured the park some 5 years earlier.  However, we gave my brother a quick tour of the park when he came to visit.  We were stunned by the mountains of dead pine trees throughout the park.  I won't be around in 50, 100, or 200 years to enjoy whatever trees take the place of these dead and dying pines.  Though probably a futile effort, park service efforts to preserve what beauty may remain in the park are probably worth the cost so that the living can enjoy what is left of the park's beauty.

You overlook the fact that the process actually ocurring is not natural - that is the process of humans putting gargantuan amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, driving up global temperatures, and allowing the bark beetle to comfortably persist and expand its range like never seen before. Bark beetles have never wiped out all of North America's pine trees and left behind monocultures of subalpine firs. It is our responsibility to at least give the ecosystem a chance as we attempt to correct our consumptive, fossil fuel driven behaviors of the past century.

There are (were?) millions of trees in that park.  Saving 5000 is hardly going to change the course of nature.  The key question is whether its worth $50k to protect the trees in the specific spots the park service has chosen to spray.  Maybe that $50k would be more effective breeding red bellied clerids.

I take it that the person with the 7:40 am post does not use lights and heat provided by fossil fuels and does not drive a car so as to not contibute to the "gargantuan" amounts of CO2.  I think we should look at everything we do to the environment, but as has been shown over the past few years, the Al Gore backed climate information is anything but reliable.

ML, I'm willing to bet that the anonymous poster you're referring to does in fact contribute to CO2 emissions. But who doesn't? We all need to be accountable and find ways to reduce our footprint as we seek alternative sources of energy.
But on to your second point, about climate data. Most of what was reported in Gore's 2006 documentary/book has played out over the past 5 years, has it not? Go ahead, cite last years winter in the UK as one of the coldest on record, or the extreme winter we've had here in the US. But is extreme variation in "weather" not predicted in nearly every climate model? The bottom line is the global mean temperature over the last decade is higher than ever observed, and rising at an unprecedented rate.
Al Gore is not the source to go to for climate information. University faculty and researchers along with international organizations that specialize in climate research should be sought out for data on climate change. And their data, along with everyday observations by "normal" people, shows that climate change severely threatens and is already altering our natural landscapes. Do you want to take the chance that whole ecosystems can "adapt" in half a century, or would you rather take a progressive approach to try and prevent irreversible damage? I think I already know how you will answer this question, and that is unfortunate given that you are posting on a website devoted to national parks.

My criticism is unrelated to the cause of the climate change. It is a fact, that the beetles can reach higher altitudes now because winters have lost some sting there. And the natural adoption is to wait for appropriate tree species to reach those altitudes too.

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