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Farm Bureau scholarship winner makes presentation in Pagosa

On Friday, Dec. 30, Raesha Ray gave a community presentation on the Mountain Pine Beetle as a way of showing how the Archuleta County Farm Bureau Scholarship has helped her to succeed as she pursues a double major in biology and outdoor education at Black Hills State University in South Dakota.

Ray is a graduate of Pagosa Springs High School, and is working toward her goal of becoming a biologist. “My goal is to bridge the gap between biologists and the common people,” she said.

Raesha was given a $1,000 scholarship last year from the Archuleta County Farm Bureau to attend college. She spent last summer working as a naturalist at Custer State Park in South Dakota, where she helped with programs encompassing geology, wildlife, aquatic insects, and even gold panning.

Her presentation on Friday was entitled “Preserve the Pristine,” and showcased her in-depth studies of the Mountain Pine Beetle, which has infested forests across the American West, killing trees and increasing forest fire risk. Ray teaches visitors at Custer State Park about the beetle, and helps with beetle management programs. Points from her presentation included:

• The Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic began here in Colorado in 2002 and is one of the worst beetle epidemics of record.

• The Mountain Pine Beetle is one fifth of an inch in size, about the size of a matchstick head.

• The beetle emits a blue stain fungus from its body, which kills the pine trees it infects. The blue stain color makes beetle-killed trees popular for home and furniture building.

• Stressed trees are more vulnerable to beetle kill. These include trees that have been affected by drought and fire, or those that are in high density areas where they must compete for light and water. Healthy trees may actually expel the beetles to defend themselves.

• Management techniques for controlling beetle populations include thinning forest (most effective since beetles cannot fly far), logging, insecticides and pheromones.

• Pheromones are one of the best ways to protect individual trees in yards and around your home. These pheromone repellants can be purchased at some hardware stores or online.

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