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Old 10-17-2008, 01:22 PM
 
989 posts, read 3,127,283 times
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I'm so disappointed with the way Montana has dealt with the dead and dying trees caused by the Mountain Pine Beetles. I realize this is a natural process and something that has hit the west particularly hard with drought and the fire control practices we use, but we have known this was coming for many years.
Colorado has been decimated by the beetles, I understand Oregon has also been hit very hard. We have known it was heading our way! Now its here. Why didn't the state do more to reduce the damage? Why are they just now talking about it? Why could they have not been more aggressive and proactive in their response to this?

In a few short years we will all be surrounded by dead red trees. The beautiful lush evergreen pines are going to be dead or dying. Sad, sad, sad and very little has been done to stop it. I think the Forest Service is a day late and a dollar short.

Thoughts?
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Old 10-17-2008, 02:01 PM
 
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Sure, I'll offer my thoughts. I come from a forestry family and and know the mountain pine beetle very well.

First of all, yes, it's always sad to see trees dying in the woods. The red ones never nice to look at and they do present a big fire hazard...but first let me tell the story of the lodgepole pine.

Lodgepole pine trees are a junior species, they are not considered to be a "mature forest" species. In order words, they grow very quickly after a fire but at around the age 30 or so, superior species (ponderosa pine or Douglas-fir) grow taller and take over the forest. Since lodgepole seedlings require lots of sunlight to grow, the species would decay and likely disappear.

However, the bark beetles feast on the lodgepole pine trees at around the same age and usually kill them off (as you're concerned about). The lodgepole pine dry out and become kindling for wildfire, which then burns out all of the superior trees species.

By clearing out the existing trees, it opens up the canopy for more lodgepole pine to grow, and once again, the lodgepole start growing.

So this mountain beetle issue is natural and it is more or less required for the continued existance of one of the popular Montana trees - lodgepole pine. They're native in the Puget Sound where I live now but you never see them because we don't have bark beetle out here so the superior trees (Douglas-fir and Western Red Cedar) block too much of the sunlight for the lodgepole pine to grow.

A lot of people in Montana burn lodgepole pine, use it for cabins, or (in your case) fencepoles, so certainly it's a useful tree.....so perhaps it would help to think about the reason for it's existance the next time the cows or horses knock down your fence and you have to go about reinstalling it.

With all that said, though, I sincerely agree that it's sad to see the trees dying off. I'm not sure the state can effectively fight Mother Nature. Do you remember the mises shrimp problem in Flathead Lake? That's another story for another day.
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Old 10-17-2008, 02:05 PM
 
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Lodgepole forests get overcrowded and susceptible to the pine beetle. They are infected and become fire-prone. Fire burns the dead and dying trees (along with most of the beetles), the burning trees release their seeds (heat opens the cones), the forest re-seeds--and the process begins again. That is the natural succession of a climax lodgepole forest typical from central Colorado northward clear into Canada. (In many Rocky Mountain locales, lodgepole IS the climax forest, though it is a subclimax forest in many places--as the above poster noted.) A century-plus of fire suppression has just jiggered it around so that many of the Rocky Mountain region's lodgepole forests have reached that critical age all at once. Warming climate (whether one thinks it is man-made or natural) is also helping the beetle to flourish and increase both its range and reproduction rates to historical highs.

As a forester friend of mine says, "There are only two kinds of lodgepole forests--the kind that are going to burn, and the ones that are burning!" Nature's way. The best thing the Forest Service can do at this point--get the hell out of the way and let nature run its course. But, of course, they can't do that because of all the man-made crap like trophy homes, etc. built in those forests. So, they will continue to suppress fires until, here and there, the big megafires overwhelm their efforts and do what should have happened years before. Mother Nature does bat last.
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Old 10-17-2008, 05:03 PM
 
Location: Road Warrior
2,015 posts, read 4,997,306 times
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Dollar short I do believe so, in Colorado governor Ritter signed a $1million bill towards beetle mitigation recently yet the actual estimate was a good $1billion to solve the problem. The beetles are natures way of eliminating either dying trees or forested area which are too densely populated. Recent outbreaks as you mentioned in all the same year from Oregon to Colorado to Montana to the British Columbian Rockies are not a mere coincidence. Controlled burns are a way to eliminate an infestation however with human population encroaching these areas, it is almost impossible to take up this task in many places. Secondly, a long period of weather below freezing will also take out much of the beetle and many insect population, but with the winters becoming milder and milder, there is nothing the Forest Service can do besides hope for a good long winter one this year.
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Old 10-17-2008, 06:13 PM
 
Location: In The Outland
6,023 posts, read 11,872,494 times
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It sure has made getting firewood a breeze, dead standing all along the forest roads.
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Old 10-18-2008, 12:28 AM
 
989 posts, read 3,127,283 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rickers View Post
It sure has made getting firewood a breeze, dead standing all along the forest roads.
Rickers, that was the dumbest comment you have made in a while.
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Old 10-18-2008, 12:47 AM
 
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AQHA,

Rickers has a really good point. You'd think that firewood is readily available in Western Washington where trees grow crazy. But then the wind blows one down - and have you ever tried to skid a 48" diameter tree? Sure, that one tree will provide an entire winters worth of wood (+/-) but it's nearly impossible to get it to your house.

Lodgepole, on the other hand, grow just the right diameter.
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Old 10-18-2008, 12:47 PM
 
Location: In The Outland
6,023 posts, read 11,872,494 times
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Well well well, Aqua thinks my post is dumb ! I like to burn easy to get firewood and you think it's dumb to say so. No Soup For You ! Maybe I'll start picking your post apart and start calling it dumb.
What would your solution be to deal with all the dead lodgepole pine along the forest roads. Do you even live in Montana ? Maybe you should get a job in forestry here and then we might take what you say about this issue more seriously.
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Old 10-18-2008, 01:13 PM
 
Location: Flathead Valley
79 posts, read 232,444 times
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We cut a whole truck load of it last sunday
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Old 10-18-2008, 03:41 PM
 
989 posts, read 3,127,283 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rickers View Post
Do you even live in Montana ? Maybe you should get a job in forestry here and then we might take what you say about this issue more seriously.
Yes, Montana is home. Do you want to compare who has deeper family roots here or should we just see who owns more land? I expect I would come out ahead by either measurement, but I don't see where that matters in this discussion...

Does one need to work in forestry to be disappointed with the situation or does my lifetime in the backcountry make me qualified?

I know why the beetles are here and I understand they are part of the cycle but it doesn't make this pill any easier to swallow. I think it has been managed poorly and I wish more would have been done to reduce what we are about to face.
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