More than 2,200 trees cut down to fight pine beetle

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VAIL, Colo. (AP) About 2,200 trees will be cut down to try to control an outbreak of mountain pine beetles, the U.S. Forest Service said Monday.

A commercial logger will remove the trees and Forest Service crews will cut and peel the bark on an additional 150 trees, said Cal Wettstein, ranger for the service's Holy Cross district.

Beetles typically emerge from infested areas in July and August. The beetles fly to adjacent, healthy trees where they burrow into bark and lay eggs. Removing infested trees reduces the spread of insects and peeling bark from infested trees left in the forest kills the beetles before they can fly.

Beetle populations run in boom-and-bust cycles that peak about every 10 years. The current outbreak is widespread because of mild winters, allowing more of the beetles to survive, and the maturing of lodgepole pines, which become more of a target when they reach more than a foot in diameter, Wettstein said.

The U.S. Forest Service spent about $750,000 last year battling the beetles, and Congress has appropriated $12.5 million this year to combat insect infestations.

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