This topic is not new here, but what about all those who blame the govmint?

Pine forests, especially lodgepole pine and whitebark pine are being killed by bark beetles at an incredible rate from the Yukon (that is not in the USA) to Mexico (not America either). There is controversy among scientists why the beetles don’t die after a while as they have always done in the past — die before chewing down the pine forests of western North America, but as with the wolf, there is an opinion out there that the govmint is somehow responsible for it by not “harvesting” the infested trees.

In fact governments try, especially that of British Columbia, but no amount of logging seems to even touch the pandemic. Perhaps more than half of the infested forests are already dead.

The beetle issue is also like the wolf issue in that proponents of the “let’s just log” view usually fail to pay attention to other states’ beetle problems and attempts they have made to stop them. They seem to see Canada like it is some seriously foreign land, perhaps cut off from the United States by an ocean or chasm as wide as the Pacific. In other words, they don’t realize that the beetle kill is just as bad there, maybe worse.

They also also overestimate by far the fire danger of the dead pine. The reality is it is a very serious danger for about 2 years, while the pine needles are red. After they drop off, the fire danger decreases every year and is probably the same or even less than green forests during the normal period of summer heat and normal levels of precipitation.

Brandon Lummis looks at the controversy, including the view described above and the governor’s bold statements about the actions they plan to take, neglecting to mesh that with the fact that their coffers are empty. Then can’t fund more than token logging projects. The projects cannot make money by selling the dead pine. While lodgepole holds up quite well after it dies, there is so much dead lodgepole that the market price is very low. Beetle crisis gnawing at forests in Utah, the West, By BRANDON LOOMIS – The Salt Lake Tribune
~and more on the killer beetles~
‘Tree Fighters’ battle beetles one pine at a time (from Sept.). By BRANDON LOOMIS – The Salt Lake Tribune

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

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.

9 Responses to Beetles chew down the forests of the west

  1. Mike says:

    Climate change is not fun.

  2. catbestland says:

    I bet now they wish they hadn’t let cattle destroy all the riparian areas in these forests. Riparian zones that would have been habitat for a variety of Woodpeckers who are the natural predators for these beetles. There COULD have been a natural line of defense in place. But Nooooooooooo! It was more important for ranchers to make a profit from OUR public lands than it was to protect them. Of course Woodpeckers would not have stopped the infestation but it might have lessened the severity.

  3. I can look out my window and see hundreds of lodgepole pines. I think of them a big weeds. If they were just appearing in North America we would be spraying them as an invasive species.
    They grow too close together to make good wildlife habitat and as they age they either burn like gasoline or blow over when the wind blows. We had a major wind storm last year and we are still sawing up down lodgepoles. Go beetles go.

  4. CodyCoyote says:

    There has been an animated GIF series of science graphic out for some years now showing the march of the Pine Beetles across British Columbia from the west coast to east of the Continental Divide to Alberta. Pine beetles came in went in southern BC since the 1950’s and some regeneration of the forests was observed. But since about 1998 the beetles have exploded. The amount of territory and the numbers of trees affected is staggering. We cannot compartmentalize this or politicize it.

  5. SEAK Mossback says:

    There’s a new book out: Empire of the Beetle by Andrew Nikiforuk. A few days ago I listened to an interview with the author on Talk of Alaska on our public radio station — complete with a recording of beetles inside a tree. It’s an overwhelming attack of staggering proportions that’s been measured using doppler radar to estimate the density of beetles in the Prince George area, like storm clouds moving above the canopy.

  6. CodyCoyote says:

    Coincidentally , a newer more polished pine beetle and forest graphic in today’s New York Times ( 10-01-2011) , along with a good article to add to the above mix:


  7. Mal Adapted says:

    Larry Thorngren:

    I can look out my window and see hundreds of lodgepole pines. I think of them a big weeds. If they were just appearing in North America we would be spraying them as an invasive species.

    Shirley you can’t be serious. Does the fact that lodgepole and whitebark pines have begun disappearing from North America not alarm you just a little?

  8. Daniel Berg says:

    I met a logging truck owner from Quesnel, BC while over in Republic. He was riding his bike back home from Sturgis and was staying in the room next to me. We grabbed a couple of beers and some dinner at a bar downtown and I asked him a lot of questions about the pine beetle epidemic. His opinion was that most of the pine forests around him were wiped out and that efforts to control the beetle through logging had not slowed down the infestation yet. He had no fear of a collapse in the logging industry there. I was expecting him to have more of a negative outlook. The economy of that area is almost entirely centered around timber.

    Maybe he figured the Chief Forester would continue to compensate by opening up additional areas for harvest?

  9. Nancy says:

    Some good information, history and graphs on pine bettle devastation:


September 2011


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey