The beetle assault
If anyone still doubts the war on the pine beetle is really a war, they didn’t notice the warning shot the town of Frisco just fired over their shoulder. The recent announcement to cut down 9,000 trees on the peninsula to mitigate the fire danger and spread of pine beetles is not only a bold move, but one that could exemplify future management plans in the county and across the state.During the last eight years, much of the discussion on pine beetles has been about protecting our quality of living from the dangers of massive infestation. With Ute Pass’ red-and-brown hillsides as an example of what could happen, Summit County has prepared management plans and prioritized high-danger areas. It took a large fire near the high school last year for the impact to hit home – fires spread faster, quicker and start easier when pine beetles have infested a forest. So Frisco reacted with a plan that public works director Rick Higgins said, quite plainly, is an experiment. At the same time, he noted, doing nothing would be an equally risky experiment.The peninsula will change dramatically. Residents driving down the highway will be able to peer inside the disc golf course to see how busy it is. Hikers will notice a new wide-open view of the reservoir. And, everyone will notice the impact of logging trucks driving in and out. On the positive side, some of the trails (old logging roads) could be altered to have less of an environmental impact.Three years from now, Higgins and his crew will start to see if the experiment is working. Is the undergrowth becoming more dominant? Is the new growth healthy? Has it provided more of a defense to the pine beetle?Higgins knows everyone will be watching. Monday afternoon in his office, as he looked over the peninsula management map, which is almost entirely filled with areas affected by clearcut, he spoke plainly about the goal.”We want to do this right,” he said. “But we know we have to do something soon, too.”He couldn’t have been more right. Now, let the lessons of war begin …
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