Sierra forests targeted for beetle treatment
LAKE TAHOE ” Millions of acres of forest land at Lake Tahoe and across the Sierra Nevada have been identified as high priority targets in a widespread battle against devastating bark beetles.
Nevada State Forester Pete Anderson said beetles have infested about 22 million acres of forest across the West, and the Lake Tahoe Basin offers a prime opportunity to try to curb the assault.
About 2.4 million acres at risk of being overrun by beetles have been identified for potential treatment by the Council of Western State Foresters. Much of the land is in the Sierra and near communities where dead or dying trees could pose extreme fire danger.
The estimated cost of treating the vast swath of forest is at least $300 million over five years, Anderson said.
Recent drought, which makes trees more susceptible to beetle attack, has worsened the situation and put the Sierra at risk. Foresters fear a third drier-than-normal year could accelerate the beetle problem.
A healthy tree can fend off attacks by a few beetles by secreting resin and essentially booting the bugs out of its bark. But when trees are stressed in overcrowded stands their defense mechanisms are weakened.
“We’re looking at areas where we think we can cut them off,” Anderson said. “We’re trying to target where we can do the most good.”
Thinning overgrown forests is the most effective way to avoid beetle infestation, and chemical straying can be effective in early stages of an outbreak, Anderson said.
Anderson said that as a national priority, Lake Tahoe might be in a strong position to secure some of the $300 million needed to prevent infestation and reduce resulting fire danger.
“The problem is way larger than we have funding for,” he said. “There’s way more bugs than money.”