Drought helps invasive species thrive in Utah forests

Posted at 7:02 PM, Aug 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-30 23:55:47-04

WASATCH NATIONAL FOREST, Utah -- An invasive species has spread like a disease through Utah's forests, killing thousands of trees.

The problem isn't going away, but the Forest Service and arborists are trying to work together to make the best of the situation.

"We are just trying to make it a healthier forest, and, obviously, with the dead trees, it doesn't look very healthy right now," said Rick Schuler, District Ranger for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

The bark beetles are native to the area, but drought in the last decade has allowed them to thrive. The Forest Service tries to treat areas to deter the bugs and has also focused on harvesting and selling what they can get from the dead trees.

"A lot of us foresters believe we should be more active in managing our forests," said Darren McAvoy with the Forestry Extension for Utah State University. "The general philosophy is that if we had been more active, we would have more of a multi-aged forests, that diversity of ages would help protect the forest and make it more resilient."

This Labor Day weekend, a couple dozen foresters, loggers and land owners took a tour of the Wasatch National Forest to get a better idea of what's happening, and how they can help.

"It's a great chance to share with people the impacts, both positive and negative, the trees in our forest can have on the rest of our environment," said Jason Barto, a Community Forester for Wasatch Back Trees.

Many of the foresters in the group believe the forest is better off because of management efforts, though given time they said the forest could rejuvenate itself.