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Beetle infestations still threaten Colorado forests, report says

Feb 11, 2018

Sunlight breaks through the trees on Aspen Highlands. Forests like this are threatened by warming temperatures and decreasing precipitation, which influence the likelihood of beetle outbreaks.
Credit Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Public Radio

The Colorado State Forest Service released the 2017 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests last week.

 

 

The report examines the impacts of widespread infestations of bark beetles. The insects have killed roughly one-fifth of Colorado’s forests in the past 20 years. The trend continued in 2017.

 

More than 200,000 acres of Colorado’s high-elevation spruce forests were infested with spruce bark beetle last year.  Another beetle that attacks Douglas firs impacted 14,000 acres in the southern part of the state.

Temperature and precipitation can affect forest insects. According to the Colorado Climate Center, the average temperature in the state has increased two degrees since the 1980s. Water temperatures are also warmer. The report says these factors contribute to insect and disease outbreaks.

The state forest service report also focuses on dealing with the dead trees. Colorado has more than 100 sawmills, but that’s not enough to harvest and process all the beetle-kill wood.

There are several programs in the state to minimize impacts of bark beetles, including using pheromone treatments to repel the insects.