Over the past decade spruce beetles have been causing a big problem in southwest Colorado. And it’s getting worse. The beetle is devouring mature spruce forests and turning them into expanses primed for wildfire.
In an effort to address this problem federal officials with the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests are proposing a 10-year project to try and get rid of a quarter million acres of dead spruce trees. Under the same plan, the U.S. Forest Service also wants to treat an additional 230,000 acres of aspen forests that have experienced sudden dieback from drought and fungus. Normally, plans like this deal with small areas but because of the size of the problem they want to fight it on a large scale.
The plan is called the Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response Project (SBEADMR). In July of 2013, the Forest Service published a “Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environment Impact Statement” in the Federal Register about the project. Since then the agency has hosted public meetings, workshops, and field trips to get input and feedback from the public, local governments, environmental groups, and other stakeholders interested in the project. The agency expects the draft environmental impact statement for SBEADMR to be released in late April.
Last fall, KVNF's Laura Palmisano went on a Forest Service field trip to learn about the plan. Forest Service officials took people to the forest surrounding Lake City in Hinsdale County. Here they showed them trees devastated by spruce beetles and dying Aspen groves.
On this week's Local Motion, we'll hear field interviews from that trip. Palmisano talks to Roy Mask, an entomologist (meaning he studies bugs) for the Forest Service, about spruce beetles and SBEADMR. She also speaks with Hinsdale County Commissioner Cindy Doizer who supports the plan, environmentalist Hilary Cooper with the Sheep Mountain Alliance who doesn't agree with its scale, and a Montrose forester who sees the project as a business opportunity.