Fighting the pine beetle


The mountain pine beetle infestation that has hit Western forests has been devastating.  The beetle has killed millions of acres of trees in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Oregon, Idaho and Washington and is the worst infestation in nearly 30 years.

Just this week, a U.S. regional forester told the U.S. House Agriculture Committee that some national forests in Colorado and Wyoming may have to be closed because all the dead trees have become a safety hazard. About 100,000 trees are falling a day in the two states’ national forests, said forester Rick Cables.

Then here’s what the Wyoming governor had to say:

During his regular news conference Tuesday, Gov. Dave Freudenthal said the pine beetle epidemic “is going to turn out to be an ecological disaster in terms of its impact on everything from fishing to how we manage water to, frankly, just the water available for agricultural use.”

But, despite the devastation, there are also some positive signs this week:

  • U.S. senators from Colorado and Idaho have just introduced legislation that would allow the timber industry to help solve the problem, by thinning forests and ensuring forests of varying age.
  • In Salida, Colo., foresters are finishing a 144-acre timber project that will allow the harvest of trees that would have been killed by the pine beetle anyway, which then creates a valuable fire break.
  • A Colorado State University professor is working with a California company on a way to convert pine beetle-killed trees to a kind of biofuel called butanol.