'The pine beetle's deadly march' (Vail, Idaho Springs: insurance, hotel, homes)
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Particularly for anyone not having witnessed this phenomenon in person this article, but most of all video should prove interesting, if not disheartening:
reportonbusiness.com: The pine beetle's deadly march (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070830.wpinebeetle0901/BNStory/robNews/ - broken link)
This deals specifically with the effects of the Pine Beetle infestation in British Columbia, but is topical to Colorado and the entire Rocky Mountain West.
I happened upon this in looking for projections for the Colorado Front Range. Certain 'experts' I've heard have said somewhat hopefully that given the greater diversity of tree species on the Front Range that the impact may not be as severe as that presently on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand County, points east, north and south. But this akin to whistling in the dark, and in more sober and honest assessment will admit as much, that indeed no one really knows. They do expect all mature lodgepole pine trees in affected areas to be dead within five years. Hoping this will not as severely impact ponderosa pine, although instances of the pine beetle and most all types of pine trees presently affected to the very edge of the eastern plains.
In fact this infestation is expected in the near future to affect trees within such urban environments as Ft. Collins, CO, if not protected by such methods as annual spraying of individual trees with toxic chemicals. Moreover, that pine trees will not be the only species affected. Pine beetles can only reproduce and survive in certain types of trees, but in heavy numbers will attack other trees within which they cannot sustain themselves. Although, and as noted in this video, increasingly they are prone to attack younger and smaller trees than they normally would. There are also specific types of beetles that naturally affect other types of trees, such as spruce and fir. I've also run across projections that estimate all mature spruce trees (at least of a certain type) will be similarly affected and dead within 15 years.
If having looked closely one might have observed a good many trees of all types, virtually all (in locations I know of), unduly stressed this autumn. This evident in an unusually large number of dead pine needles. Professional foresters I spoke with suggested this a natural annual occurrence, and as with leafs of aspen these needles would drop and one never know. That is more or less the case now, dead needles have dropped and they do appear better. But I do not recall this a year ago, nothing like it. Yes, a few needles of course, but not like this.
What is unmistakeable are the isolated islands of dead trees, usually lodgepole, now evident on the eastern side of the continental divide. Still largely a precursor, but this infestation is presently growing exponentially. Moreover, as mentioned, it is not only the beautiful lodgepole, but trees such as aspen as well. I understand 10 percent of the aspen stands in southwest Colorado have recently died, and at the moment no one knows why. But it may well be related to why these other trees are now unduly susceptible to a natural foe that has historically taken only the old and weak. The earth is warming, winters less severe, and the balance of our forests as we knew them shifting before our eyes.
Although I haven't returned to Colorado in over 20 years, through Google Earth I can see the devastation. Our old family cabin between Granby and Grand Lake, once situated on a wooded hill overlooking the Slash J Slash ranch is now atop a barren mound, surrounded by reddish brown dead sticks. Am I correct in assuming this is pine beetle?
Having lived in the Flagstaff Arizona area where brush and undergrowth are cleared out of the Coconino Forest, it is a controversial subject even when the benefits are evident. Those who promote "natural" thinning via lightning strikes, allowing fires to burn unchecked were in a quandry several years ago outside Tucson Arizona when such fires threatened not only the Mt. Lemmon observatory but also the preserve of at least one endangered species.
Idunn! Great comments! On Thursdays NBC Nightly news, Brian Williams had close to a five minute story on this. It is never more evident than on I-70 at Idaho Springs going west to Vail. Shuffler is right; the USFS has an uphill battle on their hands regardless who gets in office next month. Depressing-VERY!
Face it, folks. Mother Nature is going to have her way with those lodgepole forests. They are going to eventually burn, and that's that. With a little luck (unfortunately, not likely), maybe the Forest Service WON'T have any taxpayer money to protect all of the private crap that has been built snuggled up to that tinderbox--a harsh lesson will be learned, and that little piece of stupidity won't be repeated.
The Forest Service's resources--meager as they are likely to be--should be concentrated on things like erosion control, reseeding, etc. after the fires--those actually do make a difference. Expending treasure and lives to try to stop the inevitable makes no real sense. As a forester friend who spent the summer of '88 fighting the fires in Yellowstone told me, "Other than saving the Old Faithful lodge, which could have been done with six trucks and about 50 men, we had no impact. But we had to keep the politicians happy and let the public think that we were actually making a difference."
My sister lives 3 miles NE of Bailey. When she bought, I got after her on this subject and she heeded that advice. The major insurance companies warned a lot of homeowners from her area to clean up their properties, and they had X amount of days to do it. Drb85650-whazzup? I remember Flagstaff's situation three winters ago as I went through there in the middle of that "drought." I mention that term kind of loosely with Flag-town as that area can get socked with a 2 foot snowstorm at the drop of a hat. I know that the ski base at Humphreys Peak gave up in late January as no snow had fallen in weeks. I think it was 3 winters ago anyway. Did that area get any snow or did the Snowbowl just just bag the season and kept it shut down?
Yes, that appearing as reddish brown sticks are dead trees, and the area referred to between Granby, CO and Grand Lake, CO has been severely affected.
I've talked to the Forest Service to an extent on their policies and efforts, and we probably do not agree on much. Personally I prefer to live within a forest (by that I mean wild), not something that has been 'cleaned up,' 'treated' or otherwise. Obviously this has certain inherent risks (such as the cabin, and possibly me, being burnt to cinder). But I would prefer that, and moreover do not expect the Forest Service to come save me. Some of these fires when the come will be huge and vast.
It might be better if existing policies fundamentally changed. They might, for one, devote far more thought and effort into sensing and quickly extinguishing small fires. But at a certain size (and they are becoming larger) there is little that can be done. Why risk life's and resources in trying to protect all the many residences within a forest that should perhaps be on their own. Partly this a question of resources and budget, but such money might be better spent advising or even helping home owner's to better prepare their residences against fire. Cistern tanks and dedicated dousing might possibly work. Aside from personal architectural preferences, a residence can be designed to survive a fire of any size. Certain examples in the California gold country of the Sierra Nevada foothills were constructed in the 1850's and exist to this day. Generally the concept is of a stone building with iron shutters that can closed over every window and door. The Murphy's Hotel in Murphy's, CA is one such example: Welcome to the Murphys Historic Hotel in Murphys, Calaveras County, California
My understanding that the size and intensity of forest fires has increased of late to unprecedented proportion, and this trend expected to continue. That pine beetles can thrive to such an extent is related. Our planet is changing. Aside from any steps we may take to ameliorate this (if the global political will exists), we have already passed the cusp and will have to learn to live with the results that now play out over decades.
Whether such trends begin to slowly reverse in time or grow only exponentially more severe . . . has yet to be decided.
I have to disagree with Idunn on one point. In a very hot crown fire, especially in a megafire, the heat is so intense as to structurally compromise even "fireproof" structures. At a symposium that I recently attended, I saw some pictures from some of those type fires. Trapped air in rock that the fire superheated actually caused the stone in walls to explode. Steel beams were melted to look like spaghetti noodles. Aluminum burned. The fire was hot enough that some flammable items inside a fireproof structure ignited without direct exposure to flame. Firestorm winds can also exceed 100 mph and do plenty of damage exclusive of the fire itself--strong enough to tear roofs off of structures and overturn vehicles. Getting out of the way may be a real problem, too. One wildland firefighter related a story of watching a megafire running at near 30 mph. In many mountain areas of Colorado, it would be physically impossible on many mountain roads to outrun a fire moving at that speed. Crispy critter time.
And these kind of "megafires" are the kind we are likely to get in the lodgepole forests from now on, for the most part.
What about that gel fireproof stuff that can be sprayed on ones home and landscape!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think it was made by a Colorado guy!?
I wish I could google it!! We all need some of that for our homes!
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