Minturn Middle School letters
Vail, CO, Colorado
Following are letters to the editor from writing teacher Kristen Morgan’s seventh- and eighth-grade classes at Minturn Middle School.
Beetles at the root
What if there was a raging fire, everything was destroyed, and there was no one left? You’d have no place to go, nowhere to make money, and no snow to enjoy. Survivor? Forget it! Mountain pine beetles are affecting climate change. Consequently, life in Eagle County is being threatened with disaster.
More dead trees are showing up every day. Have you ever wondered how they died? Mountain pine beetles. With the increase in the amount of dead trees, more carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere. Trees collect CO2 over their lifetimes, and when they die, they let it out. More CO2 in the atmosphere means climate change. If there is too much CO2, the planet will start to get warmer. That means less snow on our ski mountains. No more powder days.
All of these dead trees are also like a match ready to light, creating a very serious fire hazard for Eagle County. Once the fire starts, it will be extremely hard to put out, and it will spread like mad.
Dead trees also have a tendency to fall over, becoming hazards on the ski mountain. We have many great tree runs, but there is always a chance that a dead tree could fall, causing serious or fatal injury to someone. Fewer trees also mean more wind and therefore less protection. Trees protect the skiers from wind and are fun to ski through. Without trees, skiing would not be as enjoyable.
All of these things contribute to climate change and climate change affects the economy of our valley. When there is no snow, the ski mountain will close and all the tourists will be gone. That will mean no business. People who work with the ski industry and other things that have to do with serving tourists will all be without jobs. When there is no money being made, no one can afford to live here anymore. We don’t want that to happen. When the economy falls we are all in deep trouble, and this is happening all around us right now.
One possible solution to these issues is to have controlled fires. The controlled fires will lessen the supply of dead trees that could fuel a big fire that would destroy everything. We could also clear cut all the dead trees out of the forest and use them as fire wood or to build houses in the future. Another solution would be to peel back the bark of the trees so the sun could kill the mountain pine beetles. But the tricky part is that it has to be pealed back just right or you will end up killing the trees.
Because all the dead trees increase the amount of CO2 going into the air, we really need to do our part to cut back on CO2 emissions. So another solution would be car pooling or riding the ECO bus. When you car pool you are not putting as much CO2 into the atmosphere. These are steps our county is already taking to stop climate change.
Overall try and reduce your carbon footprint and remember all the things that could happen if you don’t even make an effort.
Wildfire a problem
Scientists state that lightning causes 83 percent of all forest fires. However, lightning hitting the tree itself causes only 30 percent. Underbrush can start dangerous fires that can often be fatal to the forest. Due to climate change, fire has a greater chance of destroying our community.
The rising temperature has weakened trees in the last 20 years. The temperature affects the amount of precipitation, and when trees don’t get enough water, they dry out. Wood ignites at 590 degrees Celsius (1,000 degrees Fahrenheit). The drier the wood, the less it has to warm up, so the easier it will burn.
Pine beetles are also a big contributor to fires. They carry blue stain fungus, which if it infests the tree can block the resin response. Within two weeks the tree dies of starvation, because the phloem layer is damaged to the point of blocking off the tree’s water and nutrient supply. This adds to the fire ladder, or the dead undergrowth.
Although these are big contributors, they are not the only things that are causing fires. Humans are not allowing low natural fires to clear our unneeded underbrush. As it piles up, underbrush becomes drier and better fuel for fire. Also, when younger trees begin to grow they take away nutrients from older stronger trees. This makes the forest more susceptible to not only pine beetle, but fire as well.
Although this solution is not possible in all areas, controlled burns could help reduce forest undergrowth. This would be a great solution for forest areas that surround communities. Many mountain firefighters are trained in wildfire safety and it would be easy and safe not only for the community, but for the forest too.
Humans could also do many things in their daily lives to help decrease CO2 levels so precipitation levels increase. It’s just as simple as turning the lights off, unplugging unused appliances, or switching to compact florescent light bulbs. If your family switches just to one CFL, your house alone will use 718 pounds less CO2 a year.
Many things cause fires — lightning, underbrush, humans, spontaneous combustion, and many more. But we can take some easy steps not only to make our lives better but the forest’s, as well.