Friday, September 13, 2013

BLM wages battle against mistletoe

Bell Mountain area truck traffic to increase through October


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

    The BLM’s Twin Falls District has started to remove Douglas fir trees infested with dwarf mistletoe in the Sharps Canyon area seven miles east of Bellevue. According to a news release from the BLM, the work will take six to eight weeks to complete and is intended to prevent a greater landscape infestation of dwarf mistletoe.
    Increased traffic by cutting and hauling crews operating large trucks and heavy equipment could impede access on the Sharps Canyon/Bell Mountain Road throughout the duration of the project. Additionally, trucking haul routes for the transportation of the material will follow the Sharps Canyon Road, travel west on Muldoon Canyon Road, south and west onto Bayhorse Road, west onto the Chestnut Road and then south on state Highway 75. Residents and recreationists are asked to use caution when traveling in the area.


Dwarf mistletoe is a parasitic plant that affects
dense single-species stands of pines and conifer trees.


    About 10 tons of biomass will be removed from the 45-acre treatment area. This should reduce the potential for large wildfire in the Bell Mountain area, increase the tree stand diversity, improve wildlife habitat and improve watershed functions.
    Dwarf mistletoe is a parasitic plant that affects dense single-species stands of pines and conifer trees by attaching itself to the bark and wood of healthy trees and stealing nutrients and water for its own benefit. Over time, the parasite plant modifies the tree growth to create large clumps of branches and needles (witch’s brooms) that provide shade and habitat for the parasite but harm the health of the host tree.  Eventually, the diseased trees are unable to maintain productivity and begin to die.
    Over time, the dwarf mistletoe will spread to neighboring trees and leave dense swaths of dry, diseased and dead trees in its wake. An effective tool to combat the spread of the disease is to increase the spacing between trees of the same species and remove the trees hosting the parasite. Filling in spaces with other tree species either through natural recruitment or by planting is also helpful.
    The Bell Mountain mistletoe project is a labor-intensive project and is planned with multiple steps. The first phase was recently completed on 205 acres in the Sharps Canyon area where dwarf mistletoe-infested Douglas fir trees were cut and piled. About 30 trees per acre were cut, and many tons were removed from the over-story. No biomass was removed, but all the branches and limbs from the cut trees were piled and are scheduled to be burned in late fall or early winter.
    At the conclusion of the project, around 70 diseased trees per acre will be cut or removed from the 250 total acres, and 2,500 tons of fuel will be removed or burned by prescribed pile burning. Once the last piles are burned and debris removed, the BLM will plant around 25,000 new seedlings of lodgepole pine and Ponderosa pine to help diversify the forest stand and provide future cover for wildlife and mid- to late-successional forest tree species.
Greg Moore: gmoore@mtexpress.com




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