Beetle-mania across West | VailDaily.com

Beetle-mania across West

Don Rogers

Blame it on drought, global warming, Rush Limbaugh’s denial extending well past addiction to pain killers. One more sign of the apocalypse, or at least payback from Mother Nature, is the mountain pine beetle and her cousins wreaking their havoc on forests throughout the West. Not just the Vail Valley, but much of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, South Dakota, Montana Idaho and even the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska are under siege. Scientists fret about the boreal forests of Canada and even a west-to-east migration of the bugs killing millions of acres of pinion, ponderosa and lodgepole pines, as well as other conifers.It’s about time for the beetles to fly for a couple of weeks, looking for new trees on which to lay their eggs and kick off a new round of larvae burrowing into the wood, eventually fatally.The density of the forests from a century of relative success putting out wildfires, along with a good half-decade of the latest drought weakening the trees, has set up the bloom of beetles. But it’s happened before and assuredly will happen again once this infestation runs its course. The 23,000-acre conflagration in the wilderness around Trappers Lake in summer 2002 has its root in a long-ago beetle population burst. Decades later, a couple of lightning strikes combined with a bone dry spring and summer, along with some wind, and the forest was ablaze. Horrific to view, and certainly if you live or vacation up there, but that was just Mother Nature hard at work cleaning up. Between natural responses to warmer climate and humans getting smarter about wildfire, the forests are destined to thin. The beetles will see to that. D.R.




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