Forestry FAQS, Forest Fuel Reduction in Missoula,Tree Thinning in Missoula


What is defensible space?

Defensible space or a fire safe zone around your home is an area that is properly fuel reduced so that in the case that wild land fire encroaches, the structure has the advantages needed for more successful fire fighting efforts or the possibility that the fire will not approach the structure.  Efforts to create a fire safe zone include tree thinning young stands of evergreens leading up to the immediate area around the home, limbing trees near the home and in those stands, removing ladder fuels such as brush and low or touching branches, and keeping the lawn well mowed and weed mowed beyond.  Firewood should be kept well away from the home and trees near the home should be limbed or removed so that they do not act as a ladder fuel to the home. Tree tops can act as catchers of embers. Even yard clutter can act as ladder fuel. Below are some illustrations and specifications of defensible space.


What are the benefits of tree thinning young stands?

Many years of fire suppression in Montana has left portions of its forests both large and small, overgrown with brush, young stunted saplings and older crowded and diseased trees.

Tree thinning young stands of evergreens and the forest understory in Montana has many benefits if the stand is tight and overgrown with regenerative growth or excessive "reproductive" growth.  Firstly, when thinned out to proper spacing the leave tree will receive more water, sun and nutrients resulting in more vigorous growth. Fuel loads in the stand will be reduced through thinning to prevent ladder fuels.  A forest thick with ladder fuels leading into each next tree gives wild land fire the advantage to spread. The stand will have a better chance of survival if thinned and fire may actually invigorate individual tree growth. Spread of disease is more limited through thinning as the trees will have more vitality.  If the stand is near a home, the structure's defensible space will be more safeguarded through thinning.  Also, thinning evergreen stands can provide the chance to bring back a more desired or appropriate species for that particular location and slope aspect. Tree age and specie diversity is improved through thinning, helping avoid a monoculture stand. Finally, more native grass growth can be propagated through thinning. Below are some pictures and illustrations of the benefits of tree thinning.

Feel free to give Vinny a call to see how he can help thin your small, young coniferous forest so it can be the best it can be.


What about pine beetles?

There are big, bad beetle years and not so bad beetle years and there are years in between with very few here in Montana's forests.  It is easy to tell when beetles have very recently bored into pines, leaving a "pitch tube," attracted by the prospect of a healthy tree to support larvae growth and perhaps drawn in by the pheromones of other beetles that got there first.  Trees are inhabited and sometimes reinhabited in spring or early summer and the larvae will grow and leave the following spring. They feed on the outermost layer of pulpy, wet wood just inside the bark layer and in essence can girdle the tree if enough larvae eat around this layer, effectively cutting off the food source to the growth of the tree as evergreens pull up moisture and nutrients through this layer. 

New beetles may very well just move on to nearby trees if they are big and healthy enough to support them. If the tree is cut  while the larvae are growing into a beetle, the exit of the new beetles will be thwarted but the cut tree must be destroyed through fire, or removed.  In some cases the downed tree may be just lopped, limbed and scattered.  The best time to 

remove these infected trees is in fall or winter so that a mature beetle may not leave and dies.  In early spring, the tree may be cut and burned.  

Don't be fooled by trees that have boring evidence on the outer bark if it is very old, brittle and dry.  Sometimes this can mean the tree survived a beetle infestation or the tree is dead. These trees and the stand they're in can be examined for any new beetle evidence.  They may have passed through and gone...Pheromone patches can help, using an over abundance of pheromones to effectively tell other beetles seeking to lay larvae that the hotel is full, no capacity left, but they are expensive and don't always work if not repeatedly applied. 

Vinny of Nuzzo Lawn and Forest Care in Missoula would be happy to look at your stand of evergreens to see if there is pine beetle, fir beetle or spruce budworm present and what can be done to mitigate it. Look to Vinny for forest fuel reduction in Missoula and tree thinning in Missoula.


For more great information on making your property and home more fire safe  in the "WUI," the wild land urban interface, please go to