GUNNISON, Colo. – The Town of Crested Butte’s property at Avalanche Park is an area known for its recreation opportunities, with access to scenic Baxter’s Gulch, just a short jaunt from town. However, the forested areas of this property are at risk as a dramatic uptick in tree mortality has resulted from an infestation of mountain pine beetle. Local forestry agencies are now in the process of addressing the infestation to protect healthy trees.

The CSFS and U.S. Forest Service are working together to address mountain pine beetle mortality in Avalanche Park in Gunnison, Colo.
Lodgepole pine mortality from mountain pine beetle in the Avalanche Park Project Area, with the Baxter’s Gulch Trailhead in the background.
Photo: CSFS

Mountain pine beetle, which resulted in widespread tree mortality along the I-70 corridor and throughout Colorado in the past two decades, has been active in the lodgepole pine stand on the Avalanche Park Property for several years.

A few dozen standing dead trees are evidence of this current infestation, and recent surveys by the Colorado State Forest Service identified 55 trees that are currently infested by bark beetles.

Mountain pine beetles often cause tree mortality in host trees, and infested trees can serve as reservoirs for beetle populations to expand and spread to nearby trees. Foresters may be able to mitigate infestations by addressing affected trees; they also seek to remove dead trees that present a potential falling hazard to recreationists.

A collaborative forestry project between the CSFS and U.S. Forest Service – the Western Bark Beetle Program – has been established, and a bid was recently awarded to Mountain Tree Scapes to address infested trees. This local contractor will harvest and treat infested trees to impact the bark beetles that are active in this area.

Removing trees for forest health & safety

“The active management of this stand will reduce active beetle populations, slowing the spread of mountain pine beetle,” said CSFS Gunnison Field Office forester Mike Tarantino. “This project will ensure that green trees stay green, promoting the long-term resiliency of the lodgepole pines in Avalanche Park.”

Mel Yemma, with the Town of Crested Butte, adds that “the removal of the infested trees is a small step in planning for the future of Avalanche Park. Removing these infested trees is a win-win situation for forest health and public safety.”

For more information about this project or insects and diseases affecting forest health in Gunnison County, contact the CSFS Gunnison Field Office at 970-641-6852.