Utah's Urban Forests Dying

Utah's Urban Forests Dying

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Jed Boal ReportingForests across the West are under siege by drought and pests. Our wild forests are shrinking and trees in the urban forests are dying too.

The urban forest cleans our air, provides shade and adds beauty to our communities. But the urban forest of the Wasatch Front has lost thousands of trees the last few years to a deadly one-two punch.

Take a look around most neighborhoods and you'll find the Blue Spruce, the state tree, is not standing up too well against the latest scourge on state forests -- drought and bark beetles.

Tree experts like Bill Geurts have seen a lot of dead spruce. They just are not getting enough water and grass drinks in much of the irrigation.

Bruce Geurts, Professional Arborist: “It just makes them weaker and weaker, and it's like a human who gets run down, you get sick."

After the drought starts to take its toll the tree actually emits a pheromone, or odor. That's what attracts the bark beetle and they move in.

City Forester Bill Rutherford says the infestation started in the mountain forest and moved into the urban forest. Thousands of spruce are dead, one hundred on city property alone in the last 12 months. Ten trees were stripped from Liberty Park in the past week.

Despite water conservation trees need a deep watering, but not a soaking, every few weeks.

Bill Rutherford, Salt Lake City Forester: “We need to provide these trees water. We might let the grass die, but it would be a big mistake not to keep the trees alive."

The forester says we can save water and save the trees. Other trees are struggling too, but it's not dire.

Bill Rutherford, Salt Lake City Forester: “We are having problems with some spruce and maple, but all things considered, the health of the forest is pretty good."

If every tree that had bark beetle symptoms were removed we would cut down half the spruce forest.

Normal precipitation would really help. In the future, greater diversity among species will also improve the health of the urban forest.

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