Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
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Bark beetle blight obvious on forest land east of Placitas. Photo credit: Ty Belknap

Tree damage widespread due to prolonged drought and bark beetles

—Ellen Burgess

It’s everywhere—brown patches among dark green piñon trees.

Despite recent rains, experts say the lengthy drought weakened already stressed trees, making them unable to defend themselves against bark beetle infestation. The last big infestation was about five years ago.

State Forest Health Specialist Danny Norlander did aerial monitoring recently. The results are not ready for release.

According to NM State Forestry, the duration of current populations of beetles cannot be predicted, nor how many trees will ultimately die. However, stand densities are believed to be well beyond the natural range of historic variability, so tree losses could potentially be greater than previously experienced.

The latest Drought Monitor from the National Weather Service reports the East Mountains and Estancia Valley remain in extreme to exceptional drought conditions. Despite recent rains, the drought is predicted to “persist or intensify” according to its Climate Prediction Center. The center also predicts a forty percent chance of above-average temperatures this winter.

When inspecting a tree, a telltale sign of bark beetles is a clicking noise. Saw dust can be seen in the crevice between trunk and branch—the result of tunneling activity of newly hatched beetle larvae, which starve the tree’s sap supply. At this point the tree is already doomed.

Property owners should take down an infected tree as soon as possible, removing all slash and wood to prevent the beetle spreading to nearby trees. It is advised to not stack firewood near or beneath other trees.

Also according to State Forestry, beetle-killed trees do not necessarily increase fire danger.

Another stressor to both piñon and juniper is the parasitic plant mistletoe, a yellow-green growth sometimes called “Witch’s Broom.” The parasite extracts nutrients and water from the branches of the host tree, eventually killing the branch. If left unattended, it will not only kill the tree, but spread to nearby trees.

Information from the drought monitor said the past 12 months (August 2012-July 2013) average statewide precipitation ranked as the twelfth driest year on record. The past 24 months (August 2011-July 2013) was the seventh driest consecutive 24 months on record. The last 36 months (august 2010-July 2013) ranks as the driest on record.

LPA presents Harvest Festival

—Chris Frye, Las Placitas Association

On October 26, the Las Placitas Association will hold their annual Fall Harvest Festival at the Anasazi Winery. There will be fun for the whole family, with competitions for baked goods, garden produce, canned/preserved foods, crafts, and pumpkin carving for the kids. Entry is free, and everyone is encouraged to enter their best pie, cake, bread, homemade mozzarella cheese, or canned pears; ribbons will be awarded. Judging begins at 2:00 p.m.

Phill Remick from NewBeeRescue in Albuquerque will give a talk about beekeeping, and Hart Schwarz will be back to talk about the Birds of Placitas. Find out what the best birdhouse design for your yard could be and how to make it. Show off your handy-crafts—weaving, sewing, beadwork, leather, glass, or woodcrafts, for example—at an art table. To reserve a free table, contact Chris at

Wine will be available for tasting and purchasing. The festival runs from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Anasazi Fields Winery—26 Camino de los Pueblitos—in the Village of Placitas. Contact Chris at for further information.

Fuelwood permits available

—U.S. Forest Service

Sandia Ranger District is selling fuelwood permits in the David Canyon Fuels Reduction Project Area at the Sandia Ranger Station and the Cibola NF Supervisor Office in Albuquerque. Permits will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis and not to exceed eight cords per person.

Caution: fuelwood gathering is hard work! Safety should always be the number one priority. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • If you are using a chainsaw, you should have training and safety equipment to utilize this equipment. Go to OSHA Chainsaw Safety before using one.
  • Chainsaws are heavy; using it takes lots of strength and energy.
  • Once the wood is cut, one has to carry the wood to the vehicle, walking up steep hills and over challenging, uneven surfaces.
  • Roads through the forest to the wood cutting areas are not paved; they are rocky, narrow, rutted, and very primitive.
  • You will probably not have cell phone coverage in case of emergency.
  • This is dangerous work. Be prepared!

For additional information, contact the Sandia Ranger District 281-3304.

Notice of Fair Board election

—Steve M. Lucero

The Sandoval County Fair Board annual meeting and Election of Officers will be held on October 6, at 1:00 p.m., at the Sandoval County Fair Grounds, located off NM 550, in Cuba, New Mexico.

All residents of Sandoval County or the Rio Puerco Basin are invited and allowed to submit their name as a nominee. New fair board members will be elected to the roles of: President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and general board members.

The Sandoval County Fair Board supports the residents of the county, especially the youth that are involved in the 4-H program and Jr. Livestock auction each year.

The Sandoval County Fair Board is a nonprofit organization dedicated to planning the Sandoval County Fair each year.
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