A-List Blog: Tree hugging | VailDaily.com

A-List Blog: Tree hugging

Alex Miller

I love trees, always have. And I’m pretty sure it’s an affection shared by many humans, especially the ones who call the vast forests of the West home.

Trees have been taking it on the chin lately, though. One need only glance up at the hillsides full of red, dead pine trees to know what a toll the lousy little bark beetle has taken on our forests. Some estimates put the eventual loss due to the little critters at a whopping 90 percent over the next decade.

That’ll make things look a little different around here, won’t it?

Right now, I’m working on a story about another troubling tree problem: Aspen are dying all across the West as well. Only this die-off isn’t due to an insect. In fact, researchers aren’t quite sure what’s killing the aspen, only that it’s happening on a vast scale.

As our local district ranger told me, it’s hard for humans to comprehend the life cycles of a forest, which is expressed in centuries rather than decades. The aspen dying, the pine beetles attacking the conifers and other such events are part of natural cycles, most likely. We might not like it when the hillsides appear stripped of trees, but it may be as commonplace an event as a bird molting or an elk shedding antlers.

I actually believe a lot of human misunderstanding stems from our inability to see much outside our short lifetimes. Resistance to evolution is just one example of how hard it is for us to recognize the great age of the earth and the processes that shape it over vast stretches of time that are simply incomprehensible to us.

Be that as it may, I walk through the woods or drive by the forests and mourn the losses on a daily basis. Whether it’s human-caused or part of the circle of life matters not; I just miss those trees and hope they can recover sooner rather than later.

Vail, Colorado

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