October 13, 2010
By Kayla Green
With Homecoming approaching, the University has developed another 'green' idea by trading in our wooden pallets for beetle-kill wood in this year's bonfire.
For this year's Homecoming bonfire, the Colorado State Forest Service will provide a combination of pine and fir "slash" from the Borden Memorial Forest northwest of Fort Collins. The CSFS has been thinning the private forest to remove the beetle-kill trees, mitigate fire risk and improve forest health.
With the help of Colorado State University forestry students and Facilities Management personnel, CSFS foresters and firefighters will transport about 35 cubic yards of the dried slash -- enough to fill three dump trucks -- to the bonfire site this Friday.
In the past years, the CSU Homecoming bonfire was built using wooden pallets collected and dumped in the irrigation ditch near the Lory Student Center West Lawn. However, these wooden slabs were typically processed wood that included imbedded nails that would later have to be removed from the ditch after the bonfire.
This year, CSU's Facilities Management decided to take it in a new direction. In order to help the environment as well as allow Forestry students to gain hands-on experience, Facilities has partnered with the CSFS and the Department of Forest, Rangeland & Watershed Stewardship to find a better alternate for the bonfire.
Thus, the beetle-kill wood idea transpired.
When mountain pine beetles infest a pine tree, they burrow through the bark and spread a fungus that often results in the death of the tree. This fungus will turn parts of the wood blue, which can make the wood difficult to sell because of a perceived lower quality.
In actuality, blue-stain wood has the same integrity as other pine and can be used to craft unique, eye-catching furniture, home construction materials and specialty wood products.
Generally speaking, after a tree has been killed, it is more likely to blow over. Once on the ground, the tree will begin to rot and is more likely to be consumed in a forest fire.
By using the left over branch wood and needles from this infestation in the bonfire, CSU will help forests by reducing the forest density, which in effect, would help reduce the likelihood of a forest fire. Likewise, once burned, the leftover ash can be 'recycled' into a fertilizer or other soil enhancer.
"Really, this is a green operation because this material was likely to burn anyway. The bonfire allows for a controlled burn on campus without the risk to our forest communities," said Mike Eckhoff, a research associate for CSFS.
For additional information, visit Homecoming & Family Weekend.