Idaho beetle infestation sets scene for fire

Elkhunter

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Idaho beetle infestation sets scene for fire

Associated Press — June 2, 2004

STANLEY, Idaho — Another year of drought and an infestation of mountain pine beetles have set up portions of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area with the potential for a monumental fire.

While lodgepole pine forests naturally burn with some regularity, fire suppression in the scenic Stanley Basin prevented such clearing.

Estimates put tree losses since the late 1990s at more than 1 million. The valley is marked with huge stands of dead, rust-red trees ripe for a fire. The forest is also at the height of a beetle infestation.

"A lot of people are shocked. Some people are bummed out," said Jim Rineholt, a recreation area forester. "That's how the lodgepole is regenerated — by fire and pine beetle." Homeowners in a subdivision at Smiley Creek are taking steps to protect their property. Sandy Vail lives in the neighborhood at the base of Galena Summit. She moved from Boise eight years ago, but noticed dying trees a few years later.

"At that point it didn't seem to be a major problem. We assumed the beetles would go through their cycle and winter out. But it hasn't happened that way," Vail said. "It's just getting exponentially larger."

Homeowners learned their neighborhood of about 60 homes is not covered by a fire district and lacks the water pressure to fight a fire.

"We were galvanized into action at that point," she said. "The reality is we could have a fire. It's not if it happens. It's when it happens. Rather than worry, I decided to do something."

Her house has become fire prevention headquarters for homeowners.

"What we're trying to do in each of these little communities is create an ever wider defensible and survivable space," Vail said

More than 900 trees will be removed from the subdivision this year. Healthy trees will be sprayed for protection. Saplings will be planted next year. Grant money will help pay for it all.

Forester records discovered from 1910 indicate pine beetles have done this before in the Stanley Basin, Rineholt said.

With so many dead trees surrounding development and tourism in the SNRA, the prospect of a big fire cannot be ignored. Prevention and protection efforts are focused on developed areas.

The Forest Service has worked with local counties to develop evacuation routes, said Randy Richter, the agency's fire management officer. The popular Redfish Lake camping area is of particular concern.

About 11,000 trees in the basin have been sprayed since 1998 to protect healthy trees from attack by insects.

"This year alone, we're hoping to spray almost 9,000 trees," Rineholt said.

The recreation area is selling timber to thin trees in campgrounds. An estimated 3.3 million board feet of lodgepole pine will be harvested over five years.
 

ELKCHSR

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Nov 28, 2001
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Montana
Selling our natural resources off to "Loggers" for personal gain!!! Such Blasphemy!!! :D
It is good these people are doing what ever it takes to protect themselves, I wish the word could be gotten out a little better, but some people just won't listen until danger is knocking on their door and then they will scream and yell for help... it is good that there are things set into the works to help those that have helped themselves and the rest get to live with the raveges of what good ol' Mother Earth have to offer....
 

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