If you're planning a visit soon to Rocky Mountain National Park, you might want to read the following carefully and look at your calendar. Park crews plan to be spraying trees around the park through most of May in an ongoing battle against bark beetles.
Park crews have battling mountain pine beetles and spruce bark beetles for some years now. At Rocky Mountain, average winter temperatures in the park have been higher than normal over the past ten years, according to park officials, who add that trees have also been weakened by a prolonged period of low precipitation. The combination of milder temperatures and low precipitation has aided a vast outbreak of beetles, they say.
The beetles' onslaught has left quite a few dead trees, trees that can prove hazardous to park visitors. As a result, there is extensive beetle mitigation work under way at a variety of locations in the park. The goal is to mitigate hazard tree threats in or near park facilities such as campgrounds, parking lots, housing areas and visitor centers.
Last year crews sprayed about 5,000 "high value" trees with a Carbaryl-based insecticide. The spraying was conducted in the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center & Headquarters area, Moraine Park Visitor Center and the William Allen White Cabin, Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Aspenglen, Moraine Park, Glacier Basin & Timber Creek Campgrounds, Bighorn Ranger Station, McGraw Ranch, Holzwarth Historic Site, and east and west side Park Service housing areas.
Through April and up until the Memorial Day weekend this year spraying operations involving between 4,000 and 5,000 trees will occur in the following developed areas of the park: Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and Headquarters, Moraine Park Visitor Center, Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Aspenglen, Moraine Park, and Glacier Basin Campgrounds, Bighorn Ranger Station, McGraw Ranch, Holzwarth Historic Site, Timber Creek Campground Water Tank, Leiffer Cabin, Kaley Cottages, Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, and the east and west side park service housing areas, according to a park release.
The Longs Peak Campground will remain chemical free for this year.
The park is also treating up to 300 high-value limber pine trees within front country and designated wilderness with verbenone pheromone packets to minimize infestation from bark beetles. The packets are intended to ward-off beetles by using a chemical signal indicating the trees already have been infested. Limber pine trees in the park are currently at risk of mountain pine beetle infestation and infection from white pine blister rust. Research is being conducted to identify if any limber pine trees within the park are resistant to white pine blister rust.
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. For several years, Rocky Mountain National Park has had a proactive bark beetle management program. As of fall 2009, bark beetles were considered at epidemic levels on the west side of the park and in outbreak status on the east side. In 2010, the park will continue its mitigation efforts, including spraying, removal of hazard trees, prescribed burns, utilizing the air curtain burner, pheromone treatments and implementing temporary losures in a variety of park locations.
Rocky Mountain crews will continue to mitigate hazard trees through tree removal at locations throughout the park. Park staff and contracted resources will conduct hazard tree mitigation throughout the year. Planned project sites include: Aspenglen Campground, Moraine Park Campground, Glacier Basin Campground, Longs Peak Campground, the Wild Basin area, Old Fall River Road, Grand Lake Lodge Road, Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Green Mountain Trailhead, Onahu Trailhead, Beaver Creek Picnic Area, Beaver Ponds Picnic Area, Coyote Valley Trailhead, Bowen/Baker Trailhead, Shadow Mountain Lookout, Holzwarth Historic Site, Colorado River Trailhead, Timber Lake Trailhead, Grand County Roads 49 and 491, Colorado River District Boundary Power Lines, Trail Ridge Road Corridor in the Colorado River District, park housing and headquarters areas.
Tree removals vary from site to site and temporary site closures can be expected at smaller sites to facilitate safe and efficient project completion. More detailed information will be provided on the Trail Ridge Road Corridor Project. Park staff are focused on minimizing any delays or inconveniences associated with hazard tree removal and providing a safe environment for visitors. Material disposal will involve piles for future burning and consolidation at designated sites for future utilization including firewood collection permits. More information on utilization will be available in the summer of 2010.