Climate Change Takes Toll on Lodgepole Pine

The most abundant of all Western pine falls at astounding rate-

Every Western pine from the Yukon to New Mexico is suffering high mortality from unusually severe attack by native insects, diseases and direct mortality from drought and heat. Lodgepole pine, which often grows in vast almost monocultural stands, is dying too.  Almost anyone who lives in the West knows this. In many places the beauty of the forest has been greatly marred for many miles.

Climate Change Takes Toll on the Lodgepole Pine. By John Collins Rudolf. New York Times.

When lodgepole pine dies, the needles first turn red for a year before they fall off.  While red, they burn with remarkable explosive force.  After they are dead, however, lodgepole and other dead conifers do not burn as fiercely as a green forest.  A common misconception is that they do, a mistake this New York Times article perpetuates. Lodgepole are shallow rooted.  When dead they are easily blown over in windstorms.  If they pile up in large “jackstrawed” heaps, these can burn very hot.  Miles of downed lodgepole also form barriers to wildlife migration.

I took this photo of red lodgepole pine near Stanley, Idaho about 5 years ago. Since then, they have almost all died and many fallen over or cut down. They didn’t burn.



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  1. Virginia Avatar

    The comments to this article in the NYT are interesting – many climate change deniers jumping on the bandwagon that human caused emissions have no effect on climate change and therefore upon the death of all of the lodgepole pines. As the first denier-commenter signs after his name “PhD”, I could also sign “Virginia, PhD.” These deniers who won’t admit human caused climate change need to come out and look out our devastated forests and tell us what they think has caused this phenomenon. Maybe “god.”

    1. Elk275 Avatar


      Don’t you remember from Sunday School when you were 6 years old, that “God works in myterious ways”. What ever that means.

    2. JB Avatar


      I point people to this website as a good place to start:

      They very carefully (and politely) refute the arguments commonly employed by so-called “climate change skeptics”.


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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