As warmer weather continues to spread across the Rockies and you begin to look to the mountains for some R&R, if Rocky Mountain National Park is on your agenda you might want to wait until after Memorial Day before visiting.
Park officials say that between now and Memorial Day weekend they plan to spray nearly 7,000 "high-value" trees with an insecticide to kill bark beetles.
The beetles, which can decimate evergreen forests, have been active in Rocky Mountain National in recent years. 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.
In recent years, bark beetles have been considered at outbreak levels throughout the park. In 2012, the park will continue its mitigation efforts, including applying insecticide, removing hazard trees, prescribed burns, utilizing an air curtain burner, pheromone treatments and implementing temporary closures in a variety of park locations.
Starting this month, and ending by Memorial Day weekend, the park is planning to protect up to 6,700 high-value trees from bark beetles by applying a Carbaryl-based insecticide.
Treatment will occur in the following developed areas of the park: Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and Headquarters, Upper Beaver Meadows Picnic Area, Moraine Park Visitor Center, Kawuneeche Visitor Center, Aspenglen, Moraine Park, and Glacier Basin Campgrounds, Hollowell Park, Mill Creek Ranger Station, Wild Basin Entrance Station, Sprague Lake Picnic Area, Bighorn Ranger Station, McGraw Ranch, Holzwarth Historic Site, Leiffer Cabin, Kaley Cottages, Lumpy Ridge Trailhead, and the east and west side Park Service housing areas.
Last year, almost 5,000 trees were treated and nearly all of these trees were protected from attack by bark beetles, according to park officials. Additional sites have been expanded on the east side of the park as infestation rates increase in forests adjacent to high-value trees. Insecticide will be applied from the ground and sprayed onto individual trees to repel beetle attacks.
Temporary closures to the public and employees will be in effect during spraying operations.
The park is also treating up to 300 high-value limber pine trees with verbenone pheromone packets to minimize infestation from 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.
Park staff and contracted resources will continue to conduct hazard tree mitigation, through tree removal, throughout the year. Planned project sites include: Sprague Lake Trail and Picnic Area, selective hazard removal along the Wild Basin corridor, Old Fall River Road, Trail Ridge Road, Tuxedo Park Picnic Area, Twin Sisters Trailhead, the Bear Lake Area, and the Highway 7 corridor.
Smaller scale, selective hazard tree removals should be anticipated at trailheads, parking areas, picnic areas, roadside pullouts, campgrounds and visitor centers. Temporary site closures can be expected at smaller sites to facilitate safe and efficient project completion.
Material disposal will involve piles for future burning and consolidation at designated sites for future use including firewood collection permits. More information on wood utilization will be available in the summer of 2012.