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Area is flush with tree problems

Common GroundBill KightGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

I’m not an arborist or forester but I do love trees … their stateliness, the shade they provide, the fact that birds use them for their nests and many more reasons.That’s why it pains me to have to cut down the third of five Lombardy poplar trees that line the south side of our backyard. The last few years the trees have been slowly dying. The tall dead trees become a hazard that must be dealt with.

The neighbors down the street had to remove their poplar trees two years ago because their trees were dying.Apparently this species of poplar has a short lifespan and may succumb to fungal diseases and other infestations as early as 15 years after planting. The trees in our neighborhood were planted in the late ’70s so they are close to 30 years old. Experts say they may live to be 60.Often planted as a windbreak the ironic thing is that when weakened they easily break in the wind.Unfortunately, thousands of Lombardi poplars planted as shelterbelts on the Great Plains are now dying.In our part of the world, the arid West, trees are having a hard time. The mountain pine beetle has ravaged trees in the national forests of Wyoming and Colorado. It is estimated some 1.5 million acres of forests will be affected by the time the epidemic is over.

If that wasn’t enough, the Ips species of beetle is killing thousands of acres of piñon forests across the West.Let’s not forget the aspen. In 2004 it was first noticed that aspen trees were suddenly dying. This is called sudden aspen decline, and it is truly SAD with more than 140,000 acres of Colorado’s 3.6 million acres of aspen estimated to have died by 2007. The two aspen trees in our yard gave up the ghost, though I’m not sure the cause.Aspen groves generally regenerate from the roots, and SAD appears to be weakening and killing the roots. Scientists say it is a series of stress-related factors that are causing the aspen problem.The main reason cited for causing all these outbreaks of dying trees is the long drought we have experienced in the West over the last decade. Though our exceptional snowfall in Colorado this year will help, it won’t make up the total deficit we’ve experienced.



Oak brush in our area has also suffered. Though certainly not the favorite vegetation of anyone who has tried hiking in the stuff, the last few years have seen it attacked by a little caterpillar called the “linden looper.”Not wanting to be a prophet of doom today, I can say that every tree around here is not dying. The five willow trees in our yard are thriving. I seem to be picking up a wheelbarrow of limbs every time the lawn is mowed. I shouldn’t complain because of the shade they provide.What’s a body to do about all our dying trees? Myself, I’m going to plant more trees … but not poplars.With 30 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week.


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