Drought and Insects Affecting Trees on Sacramento Ranger District

Alamogordo, NM (April 3, 2012) – Findings from a recent field visit completed by Lincoln National Forest personnel indicated increased piñon decline around community of High Rolls due to the current drought and insect infestations.  In particular, piñon needle scale insects have infested and are affecting these trees.

According to Lincoln National Forest silviculturist Kathy Wallace, “If current drought conditions persist, tree stress and mortality will likely continue to increase in 2012.”  Insects that cause scale frequently attack and kill drought-stressed trees, in particular piñon.  When this occurs, insect populations may increase to levels where they can aggressively attack and kill the surrounding healthy trees, leading to pockets of decline and/or mortality in an area.

View of area around the community of High Rolls

While proper thinning treatments have been shown to help reduce stress on trees and increase their ability to resist insects and disease, land managers continue to explore ways to minimize the impact of this increase in insect infestation and will continue to coordinate with private, local, state, federal and tribal entities to respond to the increase in tree decline. “Over the past ten years, the Lincoln National forest has treated approximately 4,000 acres in the High Rolls area including the Martinez, Calico, and High Rolls Mosaic projects,” explained Robert Trujillo, Lincoln National Forest Supervisor.

The Sacramento Ranger District established a fuel moisture monitoring site in March 2011 along West Side road near High Rolls.  The purpose of this monitoring site is to measure the live fuel moistures of the predominant tree species to help quantify the fire hazard in the area.  Measurements are taken every two weeks from February through June and once a month during the rest of the year.

The Sacramento Ranger District will be hosting its Lecture Series again in April with a topic of “How Does Drought Affect Trees?” in order to provide information on this current topic to area residents and visitors.  To get a better understanding of the effects of drought on trees and how this influences insect outbreaks join the district at their office, #4 Lost Lodge Road in Cloudcroft on April 12th from 6pm to 7pm.

Piñon tree needles with piñon needle scale

Private land owners in the High Rolls area are encouraged to contact the NM State Forestry Division for information regarding piñon decline on their property.  The New Mexico State Forestry Capitan District can be reached at or 575-354-2231.

Current information on insects and diseases in the Southwest is also available at the USFS Forest Health webpage, www.fs.usda.gov/goto/r3/foresthealth.  For specific information on piñon needle scale visit the following webpage:  http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/resources/health/field-guide/sap/pinyon.shtml.

For more information please contact Chad Stewart at 575-434-7200 or New Mexico State Forestry at 575-354-2231.  Information is also available on the Lincoln National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/lincoln.