Managing for the Future of Piney Campground at Georgetown Lake

Contact(s): Leona Rodreick, Charlene Bucha

Fallen Trees by Picnic Table At Piney Campground

  Piney campground, located along the northwestern shores of Georgetown Lake, has been a place for visitors to enjoy for generations. Although largely unchanged for years, since 2009, the look and feel of this popular campground has been altered by the mountain pine beetle epidemic impacting pine forests across the western United States. 

     With the mountain pine beetle epidemic affecting large numbers of lodgepole pine throughout the forest, we have had to remove hazardous trees in the campgrounds and along roadsides; as well as to address fuels issues.  Private landowners in the area have also been removing their beetle killed trees.  This removal of trees across the land ownerships has resulted in changed wind patterns within the Piney campground.

     Since 2009, the Forest Service has attempted to retain lodgepole pine within the campground using carbaryl spray, an insecticide, and verbenone, a pheromone.  While these efforts have saved many trees from beetle infestation, the remaining green trees in the thinned stands have been increasingly subject to wind throw or blow down.

     In late July of 2011, a wind throw event prompted the temporary closure of the campground to protect public health and safety. Later that fall, 120 trees killed by mountain pine beetle were removed in the campground.  In the fall of 2012, sufficient new wind throw had occurred that an area in the center of Loop B had to be cleared of trees.  Later that same winter, additional dead and dying trees were removed along the roadsides in the area.  In July 2014, loop B was closed again after two wind and rain events brought down green trees in the campground, impacting visitors’ safety.

     The forest has diligently managed the vegetation at Piney and many other campgrounds to provide for public safety and enjoyment, but after seven years of effort, both visitor safety and forest health require additional management of the trees at Piney.  I have consulted and toured the campground with silviculture, insect and disease, recreation, and landscape specialists to make sure all of the options are understood. 

     The bottom line is that lodgepole pine is a short-lived species.  The natural processes that renew these stands are well underway in this campground.  Despite our efforts to retain the setting we all enjoy at Piney, the forest in this area is trying to start over naturally. 

     I have determined the best course of action is to cut the remaining lodgepole pine trees within and around the campground and the boat launch to mitigate the public hazard. This decision has not come easily but recognizes our responsibility to both visitors and the land. 

     After the trees are removed, the campground will look very different, but a new generation of lodgepole pine is already growing. Along with the pine seedlings and saplings, we will retain the existing Douglas-fir and spruce, and the grasses, wildflowers and shrubs will come back rapidly. 

     The timber sale contract will be advertised this fall and the trees removed by next March in order to reopen Piney by summer. I hope that this letter will help the community understand our decision and if you have questions please don’t hesitate to come talk to us.

Charlene Bucha is the District Ranger for the Pintler Ranger District that oversees Piney Campground.