Beetle-kill epidemic spreading rapidly in Colorado, Wyoming, forest officials say

By David O. Williams
Real AspenJanuary 23, 2011
The U.S. Forest Service recently released the results of new aerial mapping showing the mountain pine bark beetle epidemic raging since the mid 1990s has now consumed more than 4 million acres of pine trees in Colorado and southern Wyoming.

In Colorado alone, more than 400,000 acres of trees were killed last year, mostly in the Arapaho, White River, Roosevelt, Medicine Bow and Routt national forests. The White River National Forest surrounds the Vail Valley.

In Boulder County – scene of the most devastating wildfire in state history last summer – USFS officials reported an additional 36,000 acres of mostly ponderosa pines were killed by the beetles in 2010 compared to 1,600 acres in 2009.

Beetle kill near Breckenridge.

In Wyoming, forest officials say another 314,000 acres of trees were killed last year, bringing the total to 3.1 million acres since 1996, and the epidemic is also rapidly spreading into Black Hills of South Dakota.

Scientists say the beetles are a natural thinning mechanism for uniformly aging forests but that fire is the next step in the regeneration process. Some experts say beetle-killed forests are not necessarily that much more susceptible to wildfire, but firefighters say fires burn hotter and are less predictable in areas of mass beetle-kill devastation.

Most everyone agrees that this epidemic has been exacerbated by warmer temperatures that allow beetle larvae to thrive, and that the landscape of the West is being dramatically altered as a result. Former vice president Al Gore will keynote a forum next month in Aspen on how global climate change is impacting the national forests of the American West.

comments: 1 Comment on "Beetle-kill epidemic spreading rapidly in Colorado, Wyoming, forest officials say"

Took – Jan. 23, 2011, at 4:00 p.m.

The U.S. Forest Service continues to waste money while the nation's forests are dying. Most recent example of extreme waste is the centralization of all human resources in Albuquerque. The centralization started in 2006 and was almost completed in 2010. This was supposed to save $50 million. In 2011 the Forest Service decentralized human resources and has actually increased the number of employees in HR to more than in 2006. Travel is out of control. Accountability is non-existant. Think just how much good could be done with all the money the U.S. Forest Service is blowing in New Mexico.

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