Our letters section and your opportunity to weigh in and be heard. Send us your thoughts and profundities. You can contact us here.


Beetle battles that can be won

Dear Editors,

“Dead-tree fire-fuels are catastrophic fire risks, expected to go like gasoline,” county emergency director, Butch Knowlton, warned. Fire-prevention mitigation activities attract beetles to ideal breeding sites, which are fresh-cut “slash” and damaged wood. Native ecosystem residents, bark (“engraver”) beetles rarely attack healthy trees except when negative synergies intersect: out-of-control vegetation, tree densities, drought, lightning strikes, logging, and root damage from road/housing construction.

Below, I have summarized the key mitigation points followed by a quasi-technical overview concerning the who, what, where, when and why of bark beetles.

- Before 1870, wild fires were integral wildland ecosystem components. What we consider natural environments are dangerously unnatural and unbalanced for humans plus flora and fauna.

- Thinning trees, minimizing competition for scarce water and dead-tree removal is best for wildlife habitat and birds.

- Healthy tree populations (site-specifically) need tree densities of 80 to 100 feet per acre and thinning to 12 feet between tree tops (“crowns”).

- Weather conditions dictate optimum ponderosa-logging periods August through December.

- Piñon-logging periods are best done October through March.

- Slash needs drying time to become unsuitable springtime beetle breeding places.

- Bark beetle natural predation controls include woodpeckers, other beetles, flies, mites, wasps and nematode parasitism. Competition and natural enemies don’t prevent outbreaks.

One generation of Western pine beetles are infesting ponderosas; the three to four generations of Ips are devastating piñon, and Western cedar bark-beetles are attacking juniper/cedar.

Four life-cycle stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult, produce rice-grain sized, reddish-brown/black beetles. Males bore outer-bark, constructing nuptial-chambers. Male pheromones (chemicals) attract one to seven females, promoting competitive attacks. Females construct 4-inch to 7-inch egg-gallery tunnels aligned with woodgrains forming Y/H patterns; 30-60 eggs hatch between four and 14 days later.

Larva eat shredded-bark and excrement, collectively called “frass” for two to four weeks, excavating cells at tunnels’ ends for pupation. Adults appear around 124days later, 40 to 55 days after initial infestations, emerging late summer for feeding attacks.

Adults tunnel, producing yellowish/reddish-brown boring dust, accumulating in bark crevices, spider webs and/or around tree bases; generating “pitch tubes” (seeping pitch/sap) and entry/exit holes. Adults emerge with sustained 50-60 F degree temperatures.

Tunneling (“girdling”) larvae cause tree discoloration (“fade”) and death. Juniper/cedar damage produces “flagging,” yellowed branch tips. Fading, usually within several months of attack, depends on tree species, weather and altitude. Some fade September through October; others the following spring.

Infestation intensity predictors correlate to normal precipitation percentages April through July. Ponderosas with moisture below 75 percent of normal suffer moderate to heavy tree mortality in overstocked, second-growth stands for tow to three years. In drier, warmer areas, older larvae, pupae and adults over-winter in slash, forest-floor litter and “duff” (decomposing material below litter) and infested tree bark.

Insecticides applied before adult beetle infestation are used as drenching, preventive sprays on trunks/larger branches (avoid spraying needles). Two treatments (early spring and six months later) are recommended for piñon and once mid-April, possibly later for ponderosas. Insecticides (check labels for bark-beetle prevention) include one chemical: permethrin (trade name “Astro”) or carbaryl (“Sevin”) as the active ingredient.

Altitude, exposed tree parts treated, chemical rates, weather conditions and suspension-handling determine treatment effectiveness. When sprayed trees die from beetles, it’s usually because: 1) spraying occurred after attacks; 2) diluted applications; 3) unsprayed susceptible tree bark surfaces; or 4) chemical wear-off. No chemical treatment exists for infested trees/wood.

While avoiding creating slash during high-risk months is difficult, impacts can be minimized by: 1) using bulldozer trampling for prompt disposal; 2) chipping outer/inner bark areas; 3) burning (calling fire departments for instructions and avoid damaging/burning standing trees); 4) lopping smaller pieces, scattering into open areas; 5) exposing slash to sunlight and/or covering with double-layer 6-mil thick, clear plastic sealed around edges with soil to heat (“solarize”) wood; 6) creating “green chains” (continuous fresh-slash supplies) attracting beetles’ during flight-periods; keeping them away from standing green trees; 7)never stacking green or infested wood near living trees; 8) protecting roots of “ornamental” trees during home/lot construction; 9) avoiding back-filling over tree-root areas; 10) optimally siting landscape plantings with adequate, not excessive water.

Chainsaw safety precautions along with protective gear and eye-wash when using chemicals are critical. Remember to call Central Dispatch before any burning so emergency responders are not dispatched.

A free, comprehensive mitigation checklist is available by e-mailing Result Energized Synergy,RES360RESULTS@aol.com.

– Susan Franzheim, producer, La Plata County Bark Beetle & Fire Management Strategies panel, March 2003



A call for Crites to step down

To the Editors:

After reading theHerald article about development in the Twin Buttes area, I was overjoyed that the Open Space Commission (OPC) is considering the land for open space, and appalled that OPC member Darryl Crites is both questioning the action and involved in the selfsame development.

Mr. Crites has no place on a commission attempting to preserve the very land he is trying to sell. Even more ridiculous is Mr.Crites’ reason for questioning the OPC purchase on the basis of “priority.” By proposing development of Twin Buttes, Mr. Crites has created the very need to “prioritize” preservation purchases!

Most importantly, according to my reading of a Nov. 8, 2005, letter to all city boards and commissions from City Manager Bob Ledger, Mr. Crites is in clear violation of paragraphs 2 & 3 of the Durango City Charter, requiring board members to recuse themselves from cases in which they have a conflict of interest. Mr. Crites broke the law by even being in the room during deliberations over Twin Buttes, let alone commenting on the issue, which may have biased other OPC members.

Besides being an important wildlife migration corridor and habitat, the Twin Buttes area also contains historical buildings and access to the old Perins Mine ruins. The land is relatively untouched and remains the only approach to Durango without significant development. It should be preserved as Telluride has done with its valley floor. Perhaps the county could become involved to share costs.

As Durango booms, land conservancy will become even more important than it is now. Without enforcement of our “Fox in the Henhouse” rules, the city is vulnerable to manipulation and extortion. The Durango City Council should remove Darryl Crites from the Open Space Commission immediately. If it will not do so, then Mr. Crites should be removed via petition.

– Shan Wells, Durango


A different unsuccessful war

Dear Eds,

On Jan. 8, 1964, Democrat President Johnson declared “war on poverty” as part of a liberal socialist program to aid individuals living below the poverty level. On Dec. 28, 2006, John Edwards announced he was running for president as a Democrat and the centerpiece of his campaign would be the elimination of poverty!

After 42 years, the Democrats are still fighting the “war on poverty.” Thirty of those 42 years, liberals controlled Congress. I can hardly wait to see they can call for an end of the war on terrorism when they couldn’t even end the war on poverty!

– Dennis Pierce, via e-mail


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows