Another voice: Beetle-killed pines seen all over the Gorge

Unfortunately, one doesn’t have to look far to see the increasing evidence of the latest beetle to wreak havoc on our pine trees. The standing dead trees seem to be everywhere, with more visible every week. From the old giants at Jackson Park and the entrance to WalMart, to those dotting the hillsides in town and up the valley, the dry, red shapes of dead pines are easy to spot.

At a meeting on July 17 at the Mosier Grange conducted by Chet Behling of the Oregon Department of Forestry, lots of questions were answered. Sadly, the answers were not encouraging.

While beetle kill has been a fact of life in the forest, the latest culprit seems to be the California 5-spined Ips beetle. This small insect (3mm) has worked its way up from California, up the Willamette Valley, and was first reported in the Gorge in 2010. Infestations are at their worst during times of high tree stress, such as drought, following fires or wind and ice storms (such as the one we experienced in 2012) where large numbers of trees are injured. The beetles are attracted to scent from the wounded trees, and burrow into the bark chewing networks of tunnels where they lay their eggs. The mature beetles emerge in as little as two weeks to find their next victim. There are two main hatches or flights, one in July and the second in September or October. They can infest many species of pines, including ponderosa, sugar pine, western white pine, lodgepole, Monterey hybrids, and ornamentals.

The disheartening news is that, while outbreaks typically peak in one to two years, we are in Year four of this one with no relief in sight. Insecticide sprays, systemics, pheromone treatments and watering seem to have little or no preventive effect. Tree removal and pruning should be avoided until after the October flight to avoid releasing the scents that attract new beetles. Removing the dead trees between mid-October and January, while the beetles are dormant, is the safest bet. But all debris must be removed, chipped or burned to prevent reinfestation. Wood cut for firewood must be debarked.

If there is any good news, as long as there are no further fires or storms creating slash and stressed trees this year, beetle populations are expected to return to normal according Todd Murray of WSU Skamania County Extension.

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Marg Guth lives in Pine Grove.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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