Pine resident Dan Pollick wants the ponderosa pine declared an endangered species, and he's doing something about it.
The semi-retired advertising executive, who heads the landscape committee in Pine's Portal IV subdivision, said the idea started out as a joke.
"I was kind of kidding about this at first, because I'm kind of a contrarian thinker," Pollick said. "But then several people read (the Endangered and Threatened Species Act) over and said, ‘You're right. You could do it,' and I said, ‘Damn it, I'm going to do it.'"
What Pollick has done is write Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton to request that the Northern Arizona Ponderosa Pine be determined an endangered species. Copies of the letter, dated Dec. 20, were also sent to Arizona's two U.S. senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain.
"Any individual can petition for a plant or animal (to be declared endangered)," he said. "It's a simple letter of request."
In his letter, Pollick wrote:
"The habitat of this plant is presently threatened by two factors:
- The explosive propagation of the western pine bark beetle and the ips beetle, partly as a result of severe drought conditions in 2001-2002.
- The existence of thousands of dead and diseased ponderosa pine trees on federal and state lands, which presently presently harbor beetle and larvae populations. These insects will fly again in mid-February, 2003, infecting additional trees throughout the northern part of the state. Not removing these trees is clearly a man-made factor affecting their existence."
The U.S. Forest Service's refusal to cut down trees already destroyed by the bark beetle triggered Pollick's request. He ran up against the problem when his landscape committee began removing dead trees on private property in Portal IV.
"It's my responsibility to get the diseased trees taken out, and we're taking out somewhere between 180 and 190 in the next 45 days," Pollick said, "but we can't touch the stuff in the national forest which abuts a bunch of property up there.
"We've got one owner who has taken out 30 trees, but if he goes across the line there's 100 more that are on the national forest, and those things are beetle factories."
The Forest Service, Pollick says, has taken the position that if the tree is dead the beetles are gone.
"Talk to anybody up here who cuts trees, and they'll tell you that's nonsense," he said. "They're full of beetles, and they're going to fly in the spring when it gets warm.
"So the dead trees are endangering all the uninfected trees around them."
Environmental issues have also become an impediment to the removal of diseased trees, according to Pollick.
"The environmental extremists are saying, ‘We don't want you to cut any roads into that area to take that lumber out.'
"They don't want the big, bad lumber companies to go in there," Pollick said. "Hell, we want the big, bad lumber companies to go in there and take out the dead ones."
Pollick believes this is yet another example, in this case a literal one, of environmentalists not seeing the forest for the trees.
"These are many of the same folks who now want to kill 30,000 wild trout below Glen Canyon dam in order to save a few hundred razorback suckers -- a 6-inch trash fish of no known distinction except for its ability to survive ..."
If Pollick can get the ponderosa pine declared an endangered species, it will become illegal not to remove diseased trees.
"The act says you cannot continue any activity that threatens the habitat of an endangered species," he said. "If the Forest Service refuses to cut down the trees, that's endangering the habitat -- so we're trying to turn it back against them."
According to the Endangered Species Act, a species (by definition birds, insects, fish, reptiles, mammals, crustaceans, flower, grasses and trees) can qualify as endangered because of any of the following factors:
- The present or threatened destruction, modification or curtailment of its habitat or range.
- Over-utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or educational purposes.
- Disease or predation.
- The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.
- Other natural or man-made factors affecting its continued existence.
The ponderosa pine meets these criteria, according to Pollick.
"We believe ... that the ponderosa pine qualifies as an endangered species, the habitat of which is threatened by a bark beetle infestation propagated by the unwillingness and/or inability of the state and federal authorities to remove the thousands of dead and diseased trees in our environment," he said. "Clearly, this inaction constitutes an environmental threat to the habitat of the ponderosa pine in northern Arizona."
The bark beetle, which threatens to destroy as much as 80 percent of the Rim country's ponderosa and piñon pine trees, kills a pine tree in 48 hours. Drought-stressed trees are unable to repel the insect as it bores into the bark, according to Bob Celaya, forest health specialist for the Arizona State Land Department.
"Coupled with the drought are overcrowded stands of ponderosa pine in these areas, all competing for the same limited moisture," Celaya said.
"It's got to be cut down in sections and hauled off, or it can be covered with plastic -- but that's not real successful," said John Dryer, supervisor-vice chairman of the Tonto Natural Resource Conservation District.
Rim country residents willing to assist Pollick with his effort can reach him at 476-5311.
"I'm just trying to get some of those guys inside the Beltway to realize there's life beyond the Potomac, and that there are some problems out here," Pollick said.