It looks like there might finally be an end to the mountain pine beetle epidemic that has destroyed and noticeably discolored vast areas of Colorado and southern Wyoming forests.
The Denver Post reports that the U.S. Forest Service is anticipating that the worst is over as the pine beetles have already depleted the majority of nutrients from the forests.
For most of the past 15 years, dense-packed lodgepole pine forests gave the rice-size black bugs ideal conditions, “and their populations went up like crazy,” Stephens said.
Now as beetles scramble for fresh wood to chew and sugar to sustain them through cold snaps, “they don’t find the same food quality and quantity. . . . That, ultimately, is going to drive populations back down.”
The beetles’ anticipated demise, however, “is kind of anti-climactic. We’re still left with the aftermath,” Wettstein said. “We’ve got wildfire threats. The most immediate hazard right now is falling trees. We’ll have falling tree hazards for at least 10 years.”
So, now what? Well, it looks like the hungry pine beetles may be headed for Mt. Rushmore, where they may hope to turn forests from CO2 sinks into net greenhouse gas emitters. In the meantime in Colorado, we can expect increased falling tree hazards for at least a decade and continued fights over spraying for pine beetles.