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Ecology and salmon related articles

Conifer Losses Alarm Residents

by Sabina Dana Plasse
Idaho Mountain Express, April 18, 2007

SNRA expert offers preventive advice and care tips

They're endemic species, but they're killing pine and fir trees in Central Idaho at elevated levels.

The state of local forests and the harmful insects that have been damaging them is a cause for concern, concern that has been growing steadily over the past few decades throughout the West.

As a service to its patrons and concerned Wood River Valley residents, the Sawtooth Botanical Garden in Ketchum will feature a lecture on Thursday, April 19, at 6 p.m. with Sawtooth National Recreation Area Forester Jim Rineholt.

Rineholt will discuss some of the things that are occurring locally such as mountain pine beetle infestation and western U.S. climate change and how they affect national forests.

"There are several factors at work such as some of the fire repression policies for the last century. The ecosystem is out of balance with the role of fire," Rineholt said. "The big things are the droughts and the climate change that is occurring."

Rineholt will explain how homeowners can protect high value trees and what those who have property adjoining public lands need to do reduce fire hazards.

"In Stanley, some folks have lost almost all of their large trees from beetles. As trees die, hazards increase and fires become big," Rineholt said. "Fire suppression policy and proper management is important."

For example, lodgepole pine is a fire species, and its cones need to be heated in order to open and permit reseeding of the species. For moth infestations that are occurring in the Wood River Valley, Rineholt suggested buying pheromone packets. The spruce budworm and tussock moth attack primarily Douglas fir trees.

"If you do have an infested tree, cut it out and get around the area so when a new (moth) brood emerges it doesn't attack surrounding trees," Rineholt said. "Keep existing trees healthy--well watered with sunlight is important. If they produce a lot of pitch, the moths can't lay their eggs."

Rineholt said he understands that people are well aware of what is happening in forests of the Wood River Valley, such as the loss of trees at Redfish Lake. Officials at the SNRA are trying to stem the flooding tide of the insect invasion.

"We are doing some stuff on Baldy," Rineholt said. "When something goes brown up there people start calling. We are putting some pheromones in place."

In addition, Rineholt will talk about a grant policy that the U.S. Forest Service has been working on for the past few years.

"There is a branch that give states, cities and counties money to help them do hazard prevention and tree beautification to help protect people's stands of trees," he said. "They work with people locally, such as in Salmon, where everywhere there are bark beetles killing trees."

The Forest Health Protection Grant Program in South Central Idaho was initiated for family forest owners to maintain healthy forests. The Idaho Department of Lands and U.S. Forest Service established a partnership to offer cost-share grants to landowners with forestlands that have been severely impacted by pine bark beetles.

Originally, the program was started in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in central Idaho to help landowners affected by the mountain pine beetle epidemic. The program now includes adjacent counties with both mountain pine beetle and Douglas fir moth outbreaks.

"There are about 30 people signed up on the program, and the cost share is 25 percent of the project, which all get my expertise," Rineholt said.

Treatments include removing trees infested with bark beetles, applying insecticides and pheromones to prevent beetle attacks and thinning to reduce stand susceptibility to bark beetles.

Rineholt will also touch upon the moth problems in Greenhorn Gulch, mid-valley, as well as declines in whitebark pine trees, which are an important food source for wildlife.

Tickets are $5 for members and $7 for non-members. For more information, call 726-9358.

Sabina Dana Plasse
Conifer Losses Alarm Residents
Idaho Mountain Express, April 18, 2007

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