Sun Valley Resort, Idaho Threatened by Warm Temperatures, Drought, Wildfires, and Insect Invaders

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Sun Valley Resort, Idaho.

The forest in and around ski area Sun Valley Resort, Idaho is being threatened by an ongoing combination of unusually warm temperatures, drought, wildfires, insect invaders and pathogens, officials say. The US Forest Service is starting an environmental analysis to find ways to improve forest health in a 7,000-acre project which includes the entire 3,000-acres of ski area Sun Valley Resort.

“We are very concerned about the forest’s health,” said Sun Valley Resort spokeswoman Kelli Lusk.

Officials say wildfires in 2007 and 2013 surrounded 9,150-foot (2,789-meter) Bald Mountain with burned forest, creating an island of green trees and increasing bark beetle attacks. Pine beetles, dwarf mistletoe and white pine blister rust are also killing trees on the ski-run carved mountain that forms a scenic and much-photographed backdrop for the resort towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley, reports MySA.

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Wildfire at the resort. Credit: Idaho Statesman

During the August 2007 wildfire, Sun Valley Resort turned on its snowmaking equipment to douse the area with water and help stop the flames. In the last decade, the resort has been working with the Forest Service on mostly 25-acre (10-hectare) projects scattered around the ski area. But officials say a much bigger effort is needed.

“It’s an area that hasn’t seen fire or aggressive forest management for quite some time,” said Zach Poff, a recreation and winter sports program manager with the Sawtooth National Forest, where Bald Mountain is located. “We are starting to see an aging forest that is very homogenous that, for lack of a better term, is starting to die off.”

Douglas fir are the dominant tree species, he said, and they are susceptible to insects and parasites during warm and drought conditions. Poff said it’s not economical to log the area because of the difficult terrain and the limited value of the Douglas firs. One of the aspects officials are considering adding to the environmental assessment is planting other tree species to make a more diverse forest.

Clearing dead and downed trees could have the silver-lining of making the skiing better by allowing more skiers to leave groomed runs and venture into the forest.

sun valley, forest
Sun Valley Resort, Idaho

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