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).





  1. chuck parker Avatar
    chuck parker

    In terms of whitebark pine and wildlife, the most important article is:“Trees on the brink: Whitebark pine face series of threats” By BRETT FRENCH, Billings Gazettee, November 18, 2008

    Brett French was reporting on a presentation at the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee meeting in West Yellowstone, Nov. 12-14.

    “There’s been no noticed decline in body condition in bears if there is a lack of whitebark pine,” said Mark Haroldson of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. “Bears are finding alternative foods.”

    What does happen, though, is that bears will wander to lower elevations in search of food in years when whitebark pine seed crops are bad. That makes it more likely that bears will come into contact with people, especially hunters, in the fall. More contact raises the likelihood that bears will be killed.

    “Bear survival is mostly influenced by where the bears live,” Haroldson said. “Bears outside of the recovery zone have a lower survival rate.”

    Please don’t go rabid on big game hunters killing grizzlies unnecessarily because they could use bear spray instead; someone asked the IGBC to address this issue during the 15 seconds allocated to “public comment,” and the IGBC is now in shuck and jive mode to avoid discussing it. Sound familiar?

  2. Bonnie Avatar

    Ralph, thanks for adding the link to the Wuetherner blog. It added some valuable information and perspective. IMO, it all comes back to the same thing, today’s disaster is frequently part of Nature’s greater plan of checks and balances. Unfortunately, we humans start crying that the sky is falling instead of looking at the long term affect. In fact, it seems like most of our reactions have a greater negative impact than the ‘disaster’ we are trying to correct. For example, in the NY Times article, the author says that everyone is rushing to log the dead timber so it won’t catch fire. The reasoning, besides the obvious one of fire prevention, is that if the area burns, then all the bare land will erode. What does he think happens when they clearcut a forest? The usable timber gets hauled off and the rest gets piled up in trash piles to be burned, usually the next year. Meanwhile, all that land is bare, waiting to be reseeded or replanted. Clearcut land erodes just as fast or faster than burned land.

  3. vickif Avatar

    Colorado has a huge beetle problem. The devastation happens very rapidly. It is suspected that within five years the beetles will have killed 95% of the pines in this state.

    They are having an impact we cannot prepare for, and the forest service is trying to pull trees out thathave been infested.

    The absence of the pines will cause an increase in under growth as more sunlight will reach the forest floor. That combined with the dry dead snags, will make the entire state a fire bowl. It is a scarey situation, and needs to be dealt with, fast.

    The amount of ozone implications are unthinkable.

    (I am so tired of hearing how we have been cycling in climate for millions of years-“it’s this or an ice age”-people just don’t want to own their responsibility for pollution and environmental fall out…just a side note.)

    What viable help is being provided? Nada. I was disturbed this summer to find a brochure in a ranger station that was trying to spin the beetle kill in a positive light, saying that it was allowing more apsen to grow.

    This is a sad and yet classic case of cranialinsertiarectumitis.
    We have really got to pull our heads out here…and act now.

  4. Monty Avatar

    We are an urban consuming culture that ignores the myraid of environmental issues that are a byproduct of our lifestyles. Thomas L Friedman, who has won the Pulitzer Price 3 times, is labeled as an “Alarmist” when he attempts to awaken “America” to our social pathologies. Maybe the recent fires in southern California may awaken some to the realities that “the wheels are falling off”!


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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