BLM Wants Your Comments On Managing A Fremont County Bark Beetle Infestation

(Photo: CPR/Anna Hanel)
<p>Colorado has millions of acres of beetle-killed trees. Some of them in a 75-mile radius of Gypsum will be cut into wood chips and trucked to the biomass plant. The facility will burn them to create enough electricity for 10,000 homes. Holy Cross Energy, the utility in the area, will buy the power.</p>
Photo: Map Of Fremont County Bark Beetle Infestation
The general area of the Fremont County Bark Beetle infestation, east of Salida.

The agency is looking at the possibility of a commercial timber harvest, a non-commercial timber management program, or a prescribed fire. Whichever plan they go with, the end goal is the same, says BLM field manager Keith Berger: "Reduce the threat to public safety and infrastructure posed by beetle-killed trees in travel corridors and other high-risk areas, provide for resilient forests and diverse wildlife habitats."

Some Colorado context from the BLM:

Periodic insect and disease infestations are natural across the landscape, but past management decisions and climate change have increased the scale of today’s epidemic. The main contributors are the mountain pine beetle, spruce beetle, Ips beetle, Douglas-fir beetle, and the western balsam bark beetle. Since 1996, bark beetles have affected more than 3.3 million acres statewide.

And in the Royal Gorge Field Office management area:

On lands managed by the RGFO, spruce beetle was present only at endemic levels as recently as 2008. In 2011, spruce beetle was observed in standing, live spruce in groups of five to ten trees on Jack Hall Mountain in northwestern Fremont County. By 2012, these groups had expanded to patches of 50 or more trees. During the summer of 2014, patches were estimated to contain hundreds of infested trees. Spruce beetle is currently killing more than 90 percent of Engelmann spruce in infested stands.

Chief among the dangers caused by these infestations: severe wildfires, subsequent erosion and watershed damage.

We posted part of the BLM map of the area above. Follow this link to see more map details on the BLM website. The public comment period runs through Aug. 31. If you have issues, concerns or ideas, mail them to BLM Royal Gorge Field Office, Attn: Ken Reed, 3028 East Main Street, Canon City, CO 81212, or send them via email to [email protected]. And take note:

Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.