Lodgepole pine and the mountain pine bark beetle, and fire . .

Lodgepole and fire go way back. It is a tree comfortable with fire. Yes, lodgepole has been burned before but still invites the old flame over to spend the night. Should fire be unavailable or otherwise preoccupied, lodgepole turns to another old friend to heighten the allure: the mountain pine bark beetle.

Lodgepole recently killed by mountain pine bark beetle
When the needles are red, the tree is incredibly flamable

This is from one of the best written stories I have read about lodgepole pine and fire. By Paul Driscoll in New West. Read the article.



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  1. sal Avatar

    I have pasted my response on the original web site into this one so I don’t forget anything:

    By sal, 9-03-07
    Thank you for this informative article. I was aware of the bark beetle’s presence and the role it plays in forest decline, if you will.

    But I didn’t know its size or “lifestyle” in the grand scheme of forest biology. I was also unaware of how the bluestian fungus was introduced. I have seen it in the wood but wondered what caused it.

    I do agree that the forest may be “calling” out to fire for replenishment in this way. Kind of adds a little to my aguments of the past in which I claim that the fires are needed for the Ponderosa to have a “next generation seeding”. This info is truly helpful in understanding the issue from a broader perspective.

    It just doesn’t all happen in human time, if we can’t actually see something maybe it isn’t there to begin with, and therein lies part of the problem with the whole ecological debate of recent years in particular. We have learned to rely on some type of tangible proof in order to be convinced of something/anything. (If it can’t be configured to a chart/graph in a PowerPoint presentation, it can’t be considered in the debate.)

    Though clearcuts may seem to be an answer to the fire/beetle/live vs dead trees issue, however, I object to them for their contribution to the extention of human encroachment on what’s left of nature and the fact that humans are in denial about their having exceeded the earth’s carrying capcity for their specie.

    Where humans came up with the idea that they could improve on the workings of nature has always been a mystery to me.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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