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Mountain Pine Beetle and the Devastation to the Rocky Mountain Forests

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Mountain Pine Beetle and the devastation to the Rocky Mountain Forests

Pine Beetle

The mountain pine beetle - MPB (Dendroctonus ponderosae) infestations are continuing to grow at unprecedented rates throughout the Rocky Mountains and the western US. The droughts and warmer winters are thought to be fueling this expansive beetle infestation. The USDA Forest Service was quoted as saying "By about 2012, beetles will have killed nearly all of the mature lodgepole trees in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming."

Sparce Rocky Mountain Forests

If you have ever visited this part of the country the national forests are/were beautiful to look at. It is important to note that not only do these beetles affect the trees, but when we look at the total ecological impacts, we see watersheds, fishing, recreation, scenic views, wildlife habitat, timber and a number of other socio-economic impacts they are having, not to mention the potential for wildfires to a scale we have not seen before with all the dry tinder of dead trees littering the forests. This poses a serious risk to public safety.

Dead tree stand

Although there have been many attempts to control the outbreak it appears the current infestation cannot be stopped. Currently the only thing that can be done is to try and reduce the hazards and promote the health of the forests that have not been affected yet.

According to the Colorado State University Extension, "An important method of prevention involves forest management. In general, MPB prefers forests that are old and dense. Managing the forest by creating diversity in age and structure with result in a healthy forest that will be more resilient and, thus, less vulnerable to MPB. Most mature Colorado forests have about twice as many trees per acre as those forests which are more resistant to MPB."

On the very short plus side of this, the infected trees produce quite an amazing look after the pine beetle introduces a blue stain fungus. This wood has been used to create some quite stunning furniture.

Beetle damage furniture

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