By Dylan J. Darling

The Bulletin

To comment

The Deschutes National Forest forest is taking comment on its thinning plans for the Newberry Volcano caldera. Comments should be sent by email to comments-pacific northwest-deschutes-bend-ftrock@fs.fed.us or mail to Kevin Larkin, district ranger, Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District, Deschutes National Forest, 63095 Deschutes Market Road, Bend, OR 97701. Emails should have “Shield Insect and Disease Scoping Comments” in the subject line. All comments should be made by Nov. 10.

Sap dripping from lodgepole pines this year came as the first sign of an insect invasion mounting in the Newberry Volcano caldera.

By next year, trees killed by the mountain pine beetle should stick out from healthy trees — because of their telltale red needles.

“We are just starting to get a new beetle outbreak,” Amy Tinderholt, recreation team leader for the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District of the Deschutes National Forest, said Thursday.

Hoping to curb the outbreak before it leaves widespread dead and potentially dangerous trees standing in campgrounds around Newberry National Volcanic Monument, the national forest plans to thin out lodgepole stands there. The caldera is home to Paulina and East lakes. The “Shield Insect and Disease Project” would cover 2,938 acres in the caldera about 20 miles east of La Pine, according to the national forest.

Along with mountain pine beetle, the project would target gall rust, a fungal disease found in pines. The earliest the thinning and other work would occur is next fall, said Anne Trapanese, National Environmental Policy Act planner with the Bend-Fort Rock District.

Cutting trees, mowing brush and burning scrap is planned in and around nine campgrounds, as well as along the road up Paulina Peak and the roads leading in and out of the caldera from the east and west, she said. The road coming from the west is paved while the road coming from the east is not.

Clearing brush and small trees in 250-foot buffers along the roads would provide safer evacuation routes in the event of a wildfire, according to the national forest. But the main problem is the beetle.

“… We have a forest health issue that we want to do something about,” Trapanese said.

Native to forests in the Northwest, the mountain pine beetle attacks pines by swarm, said Andy Eglitis, entomologist with the Deschutes National Forest. Oozing sap is how lodgepole pines try to combat the beetle, but with 500 or more of the insects on one tree they can kill it in a couple of days. The larvae of the mountain pine beetle do the most damage by eating the cambium, the living part of a tree under the bark.

Adult beetles can fly up to 10 miles and are about the size of a match head or grain of rice, about three-eighths of an inch long. “These guys are pretty small,” he said.

Mountain pine beetle outbreaks have hit Central Oregon before, Eglitis said, notably around La Pine and Crescent in the late 1970s until the late 1980s and along the Cascade Lakes Highway in the mid 1990s to late 2000s.

There are also records of huge outbreaks in Central Oregon in the 1840s and 1910s, Eglitis said. “It’s always been here.”

An outbreak leaves large stands of dead trees, which pose a falling hazard in places people frequent, like campgrounds, and could fuel a wildfire. The project aims to prevent these dangers.

“It is really about trying to make the area safe for visitation,” Eglitis said.

The beetles often go after the largest lodgepoles, Eglitis said, as the trees become more susceptible to attack as they get older.

Deschutes National Forest officials have yet to determine the details of what size of trees to cut in the caldera. U.S. Forest Service rules prohibit the cutting of trees larger than 21 inches in diameter at breast height, the standard measure of a tree’s size, in forests on the east side of the Central Oregon Cascades.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com

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