Wilder-Highlands Pine Beetle Response Project

Wilder-Highlands Pine Beetle Response Project

The Wilder-Highlands Mountain Pine Beetle (MBP) Response Project is an urgent, holistic forest management project on National Forest System and private lands in the Colorado Rockies. This project is setting new standards for shared stewardship and it is an example of how effective collaboration leads to amazing results.

The NFF is working closely with the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State Forest Service, Wilder on the Taylor, Gunnison-Highlands, and local citizens and businesses to complete this project. Every partner, including nearby landowners, plays a crucial role in implementing the project across jurisdictional boundaries.

The mountain pine beetle is a native bark beetle that impacted nearly 3.4 million acres of forests in Colorado from 1996 to 2014. It can infest and kill all pine species found in Colorado.

The Wilder-Highlands Project a proactive effort to stem the spread of the mountain pine beetle so that it does not reach epidemic levels as seen in other areas of the state. If the mountain pine beetle reaches epidemic levels, the resulting stands of beetle-killed trees would increase the risk of a catastrophic wildfire, which would threaten communities in the Taylor Canyon, water quality in the Taylor River, outdoor recreation on the forest and wildlife habitat. Standing dead trees are also a hazard to hikers, mountain bikers and other users of the forest.

The objective of this project is to slow the spread of an outbreak of the MPB on dead, dying, and susceptible lodgepole pine stands located in the wildland-urban interface. With swift and effective action, the outbreak can be prevented from becoming a catastrophic disturbance to the forest ecosystem and the essential functions that it provides. But we must move quickly - the beetles are spreading across the landscape, and we need to slow its advance in order to keep the outbreak manageable.

Project partners and contractors are utilizing the latest science to thin and remove MPB-infected stands in the Wilder-Highlands area near Taylor Canyon, approximately 13 miles north-northeast of Gunnison, Colorado. Taylor Canyon is a beloved resource for both residents and visitors to Gunnison County, with an abundance of wildlife, heritage and recreation opportunities. The project will reduce fuel loading and directly influence fire behavior. Adjacent to the ongoing MPB outbreak is 290,000 acres of continuous lodgepole pine dominant stands that are vulnerable to an epidemic. It is crucial that the partners work swiftly and efficiently to minimize the risk of the beetle spreading into areas of the Forest where active management isn't an option. Time is of the essence to limit this outbreak to its current footprint, and to avoid a significant threat to the Forest and the ecosystem services it provides.

Contact

Joe Lavorini, Gunnison County Stewardship Coordinator, at jlavorini@nationalforests.org or 720.670.6254