Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Mountain Pine Beetle-Part 3 of 3

Our conversation moved on to the subject of what the Forest Service is doing about the problem, and what their long-term strategy may be. There sheer magnitude of the problem and the reduced demand for the wood, means that millions of these trees will not be able to be harvested before they either fall over or become commercially unviable. In many areas they are already too hard to get out without causing other damage to the eco-system.

The Forest Service is therefore focusing its efforts on removing those dead trees that pose a threat to people or property. For the rest of the trees, nature will have to take its course, and in many cases that natural course will be fire. Like the beetles, under normal circumstances fire is a friend of the forest. It will burn out the undergrowth and allow more light into the forest. The heat will actually germinate and not kill new seeds. A healthy forest will often survive and then thrive after a fire. However, many years of man-made fire suppression has left many forests full of dead undergrowth and teeming with fuel. This supports the kind of fires that “crown-out” in a forest and kill almost everything in their path. These fires may pale in comparison however to the fires that will come in the future when the dead pine trees will provide a mountain of fuel.

One thing is abundantly clear. The nearly endless pine forests of the Western U.S. will never look the same in our lifetime. Not in our children’s lifetime. Maybe not in their children’s lifetime. These forests take 100 years to mature and the disruption to the eco-systems that global warming could create may mean these forests will never return. Only time will tell, and it may be running out.


  1. I say, of course, light 'em up!!!! Let the suckers burn; and then let me help contain the prescribed fire by laying a line of retardant around it.

    ... but that's just me.

  2. Well surprisingly, I think fire is the best solution. I will help reseed the forest and get rid of all the dangerous fuel. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough fire bombers to go around!