Mountain pine beetles are making history in Colorado. They have infested more than 1.5 million acres of lodgepole pine, an infestation that is unprecedented in Colorado’s recorded history. The infestation has been intensifying and spreading to new areas, and at current rates of spread, it is likely that mountain pine beetles will kill the majority of Colorado’s mature lodgepole pine.
To help mitigate the impacts of mountain beetle on state lands, the 2008 Colorado General Assembly passed HB 1318 establishing the Colorado Bark Beetle Mitigation Fund. Voluntary donations to the fund will be used to remove dead and dying beetle-infested trees on lands that are owned and managed by the State of Colorado, which will improve the health of the forests.
"We appreciate the efforts of the 2008 Colorado General Assembly to address forest health issues in our state," said Jeff Jahnke, director of the Colorado State Forest Service, an agency of the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University. "Since the beginning of the current mountain pine beetle epidemic, we have received countless calls asking what can be done to address this issue. The Colorado Bark Beetle Mitigation Fund provides Coloradans the opportunity to help improve the health of our forests for present and future generations."
Beetle epidemics are a natural part of forest ecosystems, but the old age of many of the state’s lodgepole pine forests makes them susceptible to large-scale epidemics. Old forests, drought, lack of forest management, years of fire suppression and warm temperatures all have a role in fueling this epidemic.
At current rates of spread, mountain pine beetle will likely kill the majority of Colorado’s mature lodgepole pine trees within the next 3-5 years. However, younger lodgepole pines will survive and continue to grow.
The current epidemic is a symptom of unhealthy forests and it underscores the need for landscape-scale forest management, which will help make forests more resilient to wildfire and insect and disease epidemics in the future.
The role of the Colorado State Forest Service is to treat priority acres on state and private lands for the protection of life, property, communities, critical infrastructure and watersheds. Additionally, CSFS promotes long-term, sustainable forest management to reduce the impacts of insect and disease outbreaks and wildfire, and fosters more resilient forests for the future.
For more information or to donate to the Colorado Bark Beetle Mitigation Fund, visit the Colorado State Forest Service at www.csfs.colostate.edu.