• Photo of early morning clouds hanging low in the valley with mountains of the Continental Divide stretched out above. NPS Photo/Schonlau

    Rocky Mountain

    National Park Colorado

Forest Health: Parkwide Efforts

Photo ranger program puppet show

Interpretive Park Rangers present the puppet show "Dead Trees Are Full of Life" to children of all ages.

NPS Photo

Many Rocky Mountain National Park staff participate in activities related to mountain pine beetle projects throughout the park. Most of the park’s facilities are located within forests affected by the current mountain pine beetle outbreak and annual inspections are conducted to identify potential hazard tree issues. As the current infestation progresses from west to east in the park, new areas will experience increased levels of infestation and mortality. Trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, historic buildings, backcountry, and popular areas will all experience changes in forest characteristics. Employees responsible for managing different sections of the park have developed creative solutions to provide visitors with a safe and enjoyable experience in the park.


Park volunteers feed beetle-killed trees into the chipper. Chips are used by revegetation crews to stabilize soil around new transplants.

NPS Photo

The backcountry campsites are managed and maintained by the park's wilderness crew. Bi-annual inspections are completed to evaluate designated campsite stability, inspect hazards, and identify necessary maintenance issues. Crewmembers remove trees that may be imminent hazards. Branches and stem wood are scattered or used to minimize local erosion. Campsites surrounded with large numbers of hazards may be converted to dispersed camping zones, allowing visitors to locate their tent sites away from overhead hazards.

With help from the Beatles, the "Isabeetle" evening program takes visitors on a musical journey of the life stages and effects of one mountain pine beetle matriarch.

NPS Photo

Park Interpretation Rangers have developed many educational programs relating to beetle ecology and management. They remain a critical element for communicating management philosophy between park managers and visitors. Programs across the park offer unique opportunities for visitors of all ages to participate in entertaining educational activities about mountain pine beetle and how they affect the park's ecosystems.

Photo park staff use a front loader to deposit beetle-killed trees into the park's air curtain burner.

NPS Photo

The large amount of dead trees presents a disposal problem for park crews. The branches and stemwood are stacked into large piles and then burned in winter months. Trees containing live beetles are disposed of in the park’s air curtain burner. This machine allows for efficient combustion of green material and results in full mortality of beetle larvae. This technique allows resource managers to reduce the population of adult beetles in very small areas.
Photo park staff fire professional monitors a prescribed burn
Fire, in the form of precribed burns closely monitored by park staff fire professionals, is an effective tool to reduce hazardous fuels created by beetle-killed trees and minimize the likelihood for dangerous wildfires.
NPS Photo

Park employees attached verbenone pheromone packets to limber pine trees in hope of protecting the pines from bark beetles.

NPS Photo

The park is also treating up to 300 high value limber pine trees with verbenone pheromone packets to minimize infestation from bark beetles. Limber pine trees in the park are currently at risk of mountain pine beetle infestation and infection from white pine blister rust. Research is being conducted to determine if any limber pine trees within the park are resistant to white pine blister rust.
As more trees succumb to beetle attacks, the park has been exploring unique methods for utilizing the trees in a variety of park projects. Trails employees have been constructing hand rails, bridges, benches, and other stabilizing structures along Rocky’s trails. Road crews use tall and narrow trees as snow poles to mark road edges affected by deep snow. These snow poles help facilitate plowing operations throughout the year, especially when opening Trail Ridge Road. Facilities also benefit from the available trees by incorporating beetle killed wood into structures, such as picnic shelters. Revegetation crews utilize chips created during tree removals to stabilize soils around fresh transplants. Public utilization options have occurred in the form of firewood permits sold through the backcountry office. Park employees continue to explore new uses for the wood material available throughout the park in an effort to make the most of a unique situation.

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