For many years now, dwarf mistletoe, a parasitic plant that grows on trees, has been steadily increasing its hold on the forests around Bogus Basin Ski Resort and other ski resorts in forested areas. Dwarf mistletoe lives under the bark of trees and causes the growth of dense branches called “brooms.” The mistletoe deprives trees of water and nutrients, weakening them to the point where they eventually die or become desirable to Douglas-fir beetles and western bark beetles, which attack and kill them quickly. Dwarf mistletoe may take decades to kill a tree, but bark beetles can wipe out large numbers of trees in one or two years.
Minor dwarf mistletoe infection is not a bad thing. In fact, dwarf mistletoe brooms and dead trees can be beneficial for wildlife that use them for food and shelter. However, at Bogus Basin, mistletoe infection rates have skyrocketed: nearly 90 percent of Douglas-fir trees are now infected. In the last few years, bark beetles have taken notice of these weakened trees and killed large pockets of susceptible trees on the Forest Service lands adjacent to the ski resort. Many of these dead trees are still standing and may present a safety hazard.
Forest managers have been working with Bogus Basin management to cut down dead trees that pose immediate risks to recreationists, but cutting and leaving trees on the ground builds up flammable materials that contribute to intense wildfires. Boise National Forest managers are focusing on Bogus Basin due to its important recreational value to the community. If nothing is done, the forest at Bogus Basin will continue to decline to the point where there will be no forest cover. No forest cover means reduced snow retention and less shade
What can be done about the unhealthy condition of the forest at Bogus Basin?
Boise National Forest managers, in cooperation with Bogus Basin Resort, have proposed the Bogus Basin Forest Health Project (BBFHP). The approximately 3,700 acre project has been developed in conjunction with the Boise Forest Coalition, a citizen-led group of members with a diversity of perspectives and interests in forest management.
The project is designed to remove dead and severely infected trees while leaving less infected trees in place. Alternate tree species that are not susceptible to dwarf mistletoe would be planted. As less infected trees become severely infected, they will be removed with new trees planted, and so on. Using this phased approach over time, a new forest would be established.
Although everything possible will be done to reduce the impact to the public, it will be inconvenient at times. As young trees are getting established, some areas may be closed to tree skiing. Summer logging operations may temporarily close popular trails and roads.
A public meeting for comments and information on the project will be held on Wednesdayfrom 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Boise Senior Center, 690 Robbins Road. Information can also be found at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=47956.
Stephaney Kerley has been the Mountain Home District Ranger for the Boise National Forest since 2009. She has worked for land management agencies for over 20 years. Co-author Brad Wilson is the new general manager of Bogus Basin Mountain Resort. Previously he worked at the Diamond Peak Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe.