Research Narrative

Mountain Pine Beetle

The mountain Pine beetle has long been portrayed as the enemy of the forest. What most people do not realize is that the pine beetle has been around the forest much longer than we have. However with recent summer droughts and shorter winter seasons the pine beetle population has exploded turning vast portions of national forest from seas of green to seas of red. Over the past ten years this has caught the eye of the public and environmental activists have vowed to thwart the pine beetle before our forests are gone. What these groups have done is created a national panic of these pine beetle and what destructive potential they do have. Whether these pine beetles will or will not completely destroy our forests is beside the point. What the real question at hand is, “what can be done to minimize this problem?”  The public needs to see that the pine beetles are in our forests and have been there since the forest has been there and will continue to live there as long as the lodgepole pine tree still stands. What the public needs to do is have a sense of urgency to manage the problem to the best of our abilities rather than deliberate over what caused the problem.

The Pine beetle has always captivated my attention. Being as large as a single grain of rice and able to destroy a whole forest who could deny this insects intrigue. Along with my interest in the insect itself my history of camping and being outdoors has caught my eye in the idea of advocating a change in forest. I grew up in a family that, on any summer weekend, would love to pack up and head on a two and a half hour drive into medicine bow national forest. When I was a kid this beautiful forest had few red trees in the sea of green. As the years progressed and I began to grow up, the severity of the beetle killed trees spread as well. Now, almost 15 years later of my first years in this forest it seems that the red trees outnumbered the green trees. Enough was enough I thought, “This pine beetle needs to be dealt with.”

Our group looked at this issue and tried to decide how we could make a valid advocacy campaign from a topic where it seems that everybody is in agreement: pine beetles are bad. What path our group decided to pursue involved setting aside the issue of good and bad and decided to show people that something needs to be done with the damage already done. Through my research I found several newspaper reports, especially from around here in Colorado and Wyoming, blog postings, and research articles. Almost all of my research found was published or posted in or by somebody that lived within close proximity of the Rocky Mountains. My research helped me personally tremendously continue to focus my research even further. After looking at the research I had compiled, I decided it would be most beneficial for my group if I looked at proving why we need to remove the dead wood from the forest. Through my research I found that the difference between removing the wood and not is the deciding factor for the health of the forest in 20 years. According to academic research done here at CSU trees left in the forest that are dead will stand on their own for 5 to 10 years: there is absolutely no problem with this. However after these trees stand for so long they begin to decay and fall to the forest floor, once laying at rest the trees can take up to 100 years to disappear. While these trees lay on the forest floor new seedlings take advantage of the open airspace and take about 10 years to grow to full maturity. Here lies the problem, with a new forest grown up all the dead trees lie on the ground leading to crowding of forest floors which directly affect the health of the standing trees.  These unhealthy, crowded trees that form the new forest will be 10X more susceptible to the pine beetles than today’s trees. So in order to avoid this vicious forest cycle the only thing that needs to happen is to chop down these dead trees. Besides it’s not like this is such a burden in itself, the cutting down of trees creates jobs along with the production of this abundant source of wood.

Currently I believe that time is only be wasted on what to do with the pine beetle. What needs to e resolved is what we are going to do with what the pine beetle has already done. I believe that sitting around and not removing this natural resource would be a huge mistake and would directly affect the future of the forest, not to mention a missed economic opportunity. My view changed because I care about the forest in the long term. I want to be able to return to the same spot I camped with my parents and tell my kids the stories of how all these trees use to e dead. I came to this realization through my research, which gave me more extensive knowledge in forest health. I am still in agreement in the fact that the pine beetle infestation is bad and is most likely worse than it ever has been. However I feel that we have a great opportunity


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