On the western slope of Colorado we have access to 3,161,900 acres of public forest areas managed by the US Forest Service via the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests. Within the last decade, these forests and many others have been under attack from a variety of insects and diseases like beetle kill and aspen decline. Unfortunately, these attacks are becoming increasingly worse as time progresses. The attacks have become so detrimental that the US Forest Service had to create a management response plan, which is now called SBEADMR (Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response). This management response plan sets guidelines for treatment of affected areas, works to increase the safety of affected areas, and hopes to improve the forests’ resiliency, or ability to recover from such attacks and other related natural disasters like fire.
Our local forests have been heavily impacted by beetles. These beetles are native to our forests and there are a variety of beetle species that can be found in the forests of North America. Our forests and beetles have coexisted for a long time. What has changed recently in the relationship is the lack of a cold, hard winters to kill the beetle eggs.
Additionally, the forests in Colorado have also had a lack of precipitation which has weakened the trees and their defenses to attack from diseases and insects. This combination of warm winters and low precipitation has proven deadly for many of our tree species and these beetles have reached epidemic level in our local forests.
You can find more information about the spruce beetle epidemic and aspen decline from the US Forest Service
Aspen trees are declining in Colorado and other areas of North America for a variety of reasons such as beetles and disease. There has been a noticeably rapid dieback of aspen in Colorado as of 2007, which has been termed “sudden aspen decline” (SAD). SAD has occurred due to different diseases and insects that had caused aspen decline in years prior to 2007. These diseases and insects have taken advantage of the weakened aspen trees due to drought and has caused much concern for the future health of aspen groves around Colorado and North America.
For more information about aspen decline from the US Forest Service, click here.