By Sheridan Block
Saving Ouray's trees from the plague of bark beetles may seem like an enormous undertaking, but as some residents learned last week it is not an impossible feat.
Organized by local Barbara Uhles, a community-wide outreach session was held at the Ouray Community Center last Thursday to inform citizens about the native insects, their target trees and how to prevent and treat tree infection. Representatives from the federal and state forest services were joined by local arborists and regional wildfire specialists to address questions and concerns from the public.
According to Community Development Coordinator Ann Morganthaler, who worked closely with Uhles to organize the event, attendance and participation at the meeting was "stellar." The goal for the session was to connect professional agencies with residents to explore solutions to the city-wide problem, which Morganthaler said was well accomplished at Thursday's meeting.
USFS entomologist Roy Mask led the discussion, describing the differences between the two culprits, the fir engraver and the Douglas-fir beetle, as well as their victims, the white fir and Douglas fir trees, respectively. While both trees are found throughout the city, much of the problem lies with the fir engraver beetle, as Ouray has an abundance of white firs on private and public property as well as along the mountainsides.
As these insects are native to the area, it's impossible to completely rid the city of its beetle problem.
"You may not be able to save all of your trees, but you may be able to save some of them," Mask said.
For local property owners with at-risk trees in their yard, the best solutions for prevention and control are cleaning up infected and dead trees and preventative trunk spraying.
Fir engraver beetles can infest broken tops and fallen as well as living trees, which, aside from wildfire prevention, is why it is important to promptly remove debris from properties. USFS silviculturist Todd Gardiner explained that the fall season is the best time to cut down infected and dead trees, as larvae typically populate the bark during the fall and winter months. Trees cut during this period can be used as firewood, stripped of their bark or hauled to the dump as part of this control process.
Before an attack, residents can opt for a preventative spray of their tree trunks to ward off beetles. Preventative sprays with the right chemical mix of carbaryl, permethrin and bifenthrin will work over 95 percent of the time, said Mask.
Linda Corwine of Montrose Landscape Consulting and Spraying informed property owners that spray treatments for trees were not that expensive. Her business charges $30 for small tree treatment and $60 for larger trees. When spraying a collection of firs in one area, she charges by the gallon. Likewise, the preventative sprays are not toxic to humans or mammals and much of the chemicals are used in sprays applied to vegetables that are sold at grocery stores.
Informative handouts from Thursday's meeting are available at City Hall and will be available on the city's website within the next week. For questions contact Ann Morganthaler at 970-325-7087.
Uhles and the Beautification Committee are also working together to raise funds for tree protection in Ouray's local parks. A campaign titled "Save the Trees" will help ease the costs of treatment for white firs on public property. Donations can be mailed to the City of Ouray at P.O. Box 468, Ouray, CO, 81427; be sure to include "Save the Trees" on personal checks.