Giant whitebark pine in south central Idaho get protection from beetles

Trees to receive ” ‘verbenone pouches’ that contain a synthetic pheromone to trick beetles into thinking the trees are already full of beetles”-

Fighting pine bark beetles is very expensive, but these giant, ancient trees have been determined to be worth it. Good news!

Whitebarks in Pioneers [Pioneer Mountains] get protection from beetles. Associated Press.


What’s Killing the Great Forests of the American West?

Worse, die-offs are not limited to North America-

Next summer will probably be a pretty bad forest fire season in the Pacific Northwest due to a dry winter, and so many of the forests are dead.  This is not a local problem, however, as Jim Robbins discusses in the feature article below.

What’s Killing the Great Forests of the American West? “Across western North America, huge tracts of forest are dying off at an extraordinary rate, mostly because of outbreaks of insects. Scientists are now seeing such forest die-offs around the world and are linking them to changes in climate.” By Jim Robbins. Yale Environment 360.

As for myself, I have been following the politics of forest fires since 1980 when Idaho had its first large forest fire in a generation or so. In the 30 years, I have learned that forest (and range fires too) will always be used for political purposes to further the agenda of the timber and grazing industries.

Their lobbyists know that most people don’t know that the pine beetle kill covers the entire West. They know the people don’t know that logging an area has no effect at all in stopping the spread of the beetle. They know that the public doesn’t know that dead forests are probably less flammable than green, but dry (droughty) forests.

So it is easy to predict there will be an effort to blame conservationists for the forest fires.  They have been doing it for 30 years, and they will do it next summer.  The news media should be prepared for this. I can also confidently predict most of the media won’t be.

Rethinking Mountain Pine Beetles: Wuerthner testifies to Congress

A forest displaying beetle effects in Colorado

A forest displaying beetle effects in Colorado

So many of us have seen the effects of Mountain Pine Beetles on forest we’ve visited here in the west ~ up close we see dead or dying trees and from afar perhaps a red and gray hue from within a forest canopy.

Mostly, we’ve come to learn via media accounts, the words and tones of managers – even conservationists – that Pine Beetles are “negative”, that they’re a “threat” to “healthy” forests.

Testimony of George Wuerthner June 19, 2009 Joint Oversight Hearing on “Mountain Pine Beetle: Strategies for Protecting the West”:

PEJORATIVE WORDS
Let me start my testimony by suggesting that many of the phrases and words used to describe natural ecological processes like episodic pine beetle events and wildfire are pejorative in tone. We heard a lot of people testifying in this hearing that pine beetles were destroying the forests and/or wildfires were catastrophic and so forth. From the perspective of human values, these words might resonate—certainly if a wildfire burns down someone’s home, it is a devastating experience. However, it is less clear that these terms are appropriate in describing natural ecological events like pine beetle events or large blazes. (See my comments on this in Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy or Rocca and Romme (2009).

Read the rest of this entry »

Bark Beetles Kill Millions of Acres of [Pine] Trees in West

Beetle kill is hardly a local issue-

This is not the first I’ve posted articles about this, but it needs to repeated because of the continuing local perception that is an issue for a particular national forest or state without the recognition that pine trees (but not necessarily other kinds of conifers) are dying by the billions from the British Columbia and Alberta mountains southward to New Mexico.

Story in the New York Times. Nov. 17, 2008. Bark Beetles Killing . . . By Jim Robbins.

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Update. George Wuetherner has some important additions, clarifications, and corrections that need to be made to Robbins’ article above. Context and Perspective Needed in Bark Beetle Discussion. By George Wuetherner. Wuethner on the Environment (blog).

British Columbia pine beetle infestation impacting salmon runs

Pine beetle infestation impacting salmon runs. Derrick Penner, Vancouver Sun.

Just a reminder to those politicians and others who say we need a rapid plan to save the pines in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, etc. The pine beetle infestation covers the pine forests from Alaska south to northern New Mexico. It will have varying impacts such as the salmon story above throughout the entire Rocky Mountains and many adjacent mountain ranges. No statewide or local program can save them, and in many places most are dead already.

Note: I am not speaking of pine in a generic sense (not to mean conifer). I mean lodgepole pine, white pine, whitebark pine, etc.