Bark beetles continue to be active within Rocky Mountain National Park, impacting large numbers of conifer trees. In 2016, the park will continue proactive mitigation efforts including applying insecticide, removing hazard trees, prescribed burns, utilizing an air curtain burner, and pheromone treatments. The park's priorities for mitigation of the effects of beetles are focused on removing hazard trees and hazard fuels related to the protection of life and property.
Last year, approximately 2,500 trees were treated and nearly all of these trees were effectively protected from bark beetle attacks. Treatment sites have been reduced on the east side of the park because infestation rates decreased in forests adjacent to high value trees. The frequency of treatment has been reduced to biennial application.
The park is also treating up to 300 high value limber pine trees with Verbenone pheromone packets to minimize infestation by bark beetles. Limber pine trees in the park are currently at risk of mountain pine beetle infestation and infection from white pine blister rust, a lethal non-native invasive fungus. Research is being conducted to identify if any limber pine trees within the park are resistant to white pine blister rust.
Spruce and fir trees are currently at risk of beetle outbreaks in mixed conifer forest types. In 2015, the park began treating spruce trees at McGraw Ranch with pheromone packets to minimize infestation by spruce and fir beetles. In 2016, the park will continue treatment at McGraw Ranch and also apply pheromone packets to trees in the Endovalley picnic area.
Park staff will conduct hazard tree mitigation through tree removal throughout the year. Small scale, selective hazard tree removals will take place at: Bear Lake Trailhead, Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and housing areas, Endovalley picnic area, Bighorn Ranger Station, Aspenglen Campground, Hidden Valley picnic area, Sprague Lake picnic area, Moraine Park Campground, Moraine Park Stables, Tuxedo Park, Glacier Basin Campground, Lily Lake, Fern Lake Trailhead, and along road corridors including Highway 34, Highway 36, Bear Lake Road, and Old Fall River Road. Temporary access restrictions, such as 15 minute traffic delays, in immediate vicinity of tree cutting operations can be expected. More detailed information will be provided on upcoming tree removal projects along Trail Ridge Road on the west side of the park.
Material disposal includes creating piles for future burning and wood consolidation at designated sites for potential firewood collection permits. More information on wood utilization will be available later in the year.
For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park please contact the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206 or visit the park's website section on forest health.