Kaibab National Forest managers propose treatments to reduce tree mortality locally<br>

This campsite remains closed for use until trees damaged by bark beetles can be removed from the area.

“Our campgrounds are very popular with members of our local communities and visitors from other areas of the state,” said Williams District Ranger Steve Best. “We want to do everything we can to maintain the scenery and recreational opportunities that these campgrounds provide.”

The first proposed action is to remove beetle-infested trees in the campgrounds. Forest managers will monitor the recreation areas, identify infested trees and then remove those trees. While many of the trees to be removed would already be dead and brown, some may still be green. After a tree has been infested with beetles, it may remain green for several weeks to months. While the tree may appear to be healthy, there is no way to save it once it has been attacked. The only option is removal.

“By removing infested trees, we hope to slow the spread of the bark beetles in the campgrounds,” Best said. “Another important reason to remove the trees is safety. Many of these trees can become hazards to campers because of the possibility that they might fall over.”

The second proposed action is to thin trees in the campgrounds in order to reduce the total number of trees in the area. Under normal circumstances, most ponderosa pine trees are able to defend themselves against attack by “pitching” the beetles out. Pitch is a sticky substance made by the trees to supply nutrients for growth. For a tree to be able to make pitch, it needs sufficient water and nutrients. Because of both the overcrowded conditions of today’s forests and the drought that has plagued northern Arizona for the last several years, there is simply not enough water for trees to be able to defend themselves. By removing some trees, also known as thinning, forest managers are attempting to provide the remaining trees with enough moisture to create pitch and be able to defend themselves against beetle attack.

“I think most people now understand and agree that the Southwestern ponderosa pine forest was not meant to support as many trees as it currently does,” Best said. “The bark beetle epidemic has been another example of how unhealthy our forests have become. While the results of the bark beetles might not be as initially dramatic as a wildfire, they are equally as devastating.”

The third and final proposed action is to apply carbaryl, an insecticide, to high-valued trees that are not currently infested. The application will be done from the ground. Forest managers expect to treat 150 to 200 trees between fall 2004 and spring 2005. While chemical treatments are not considered effective forest-wide, they can be effective when used on individual trees.

“On a forest-wide scale, chemicals simply wouldn’t be effective in controlling the beetle epidemic,” Best said. “Each individual tree has to be sprayed from its base to its top on all sides to the point of soaking. There is no way to do that across the forest. Also, treating large areas would be cost-prohibitive.”

The cost to treat a single tree with carbaryl is estimated at $100. That is why forest managers are proposing to treat only high-value trees in recreation areas. Most of the treated trees would be large, “yellow-barked” ponderosa pines in Whitehorse Lake, Kaibab Lake, and Ten-X campgrounds. As ponderosa pines age, their bark changes form and color from a flaky, dark brown to a thick, plate-like yellow-brown. These older trees, which are often referred to as “yellow-barked,” are generally bigger in diameter and taller than most other ponderosa pine trees.

“It is important for us to focus on these high-value trees in our recreation areas,” Best said. “They are extremely hard to replace. In fact, it can take 120 years or more for a tree to become ‘yellow-barked.’”

In order for carbaryl to prove effective against bark beetles, the tree must not yet be infested. That is because beetles are only exposed to the bark of the tree – where the carbaryl is located — as they enter. Thus, attacking beetles die as they attempt to chew through the bark of carbaryl-treated trees.

“If the proposed application is approved, we will ensure that all safety and handling procedures required by the Environmental Protection Agency are met,” Best said. “We want to assure visitors that we will take all necessary precautions to ensure that the application is completed in the most safe and effective way possible.”

To that end, forest managers will only allow application when the campgrounds are closed and winds are under 10 miles per hour. Also, application will be done by a licensed pesticide applicator. While carbaryl is being applied to campground trees, the Kaibab National Forest will monitor for any potential drift of the insecticide. The city of Williams will sample water from campground lakes after spraying is completed to ensure that water quality is not affected.

Carbaryl spraying has been used on other national forests in Arizona and by many individual landowners across the state. Application is generally effective for one year and may be used again on the Kaibab National Forest if results from the initial application prove effective.

“When trees are stressed by severe drought and under pressure from high bark beetle populations, all trees are essentially susceptible. Even watering and thinning may not prevent successful bark beetle attack,” Best said. “That’s why we felt we should go with a three-pronged approach to protecting trees in our campgrounds.”

The Kaibab National Forest applied for and received funding for this integrated pest management strategy from the Forest Service National Office in Washington, DC. The money is part of the Forest Health Protection funds, which provide for forest insect and disease prevention, suppression and restoration.

Citizens interested in receiving additional information on this proposed project or commenting on it should contact Deirdre McLaughlin at 928-635-5662 or damclaughlin@fs.fed.us

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