Survey: Pine beetle epidemic declining, spruce beetle on the rise
U.S. and Colorado Forest Service agencies this week released the results of the state’s annual aerial forest health survey, which indicates that the spread of the mountain pine beetle epidemic has slowed dramatically, while the spruce beetle outbreak continues to expand.
Each summer the agencies work together to aerially monitor insect and disease-caused tree mortality or damage across Colorado forestland.
The mountain pine beetle epidemic slowed again in 2013, with the lowest acreage of active infestation observed in 15 years. Statewide, the mountain pine beetle was active on 97,000 acres in 2013. This brings the total infestation to 3.4 million acres in Colorado since the first signs of the outbreak in 1996.
The spruce beetle outbreak was active on 398,000 acres across the state, expanding by 216,000 new acres in 2013, compared with 183,000 new acres in 2012. The total area affected by this beetle since 1996 has reached more than 1.1 million acres.
Conversely, aspen forest conditions in the state have continued to improve. The aerial survey indicates that although there is continued mortality following drought in the early 2000s, the decline has slowed, with only 1,200 acres impacted in 2013.
“Through our collaborative efforts we are improving the health of our public lands. Our continuing work on the land, together with other agencies, partners and the wood products industry will allow for the treatment of more acres in need of restoration at an increased pace,” said Dan Jirón, regional forester for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service, in a news release. “Restoring forest health and resiliency is a top regional priority, and is guiding much of the work on the forests. In 2013, these National Forest projects in this Region led to enough timber harvested to construct 25,000 homes.”