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Background

See Mountain Pine Beetle [1]

Statistics

The tree in which the beetles infest is the lodgepole pine. The lodgepole pine makes up 8% of Colorado’s 22 million acres of forests. Lodgepole pines are found at elevations between 6,000-11,000 feet. The last notable outbreak occurred in Colorado in the 1970‘s but was significantly less detrimental than the current infestation. Of the 1.5 million acres of logpole pine, about 70% of them have been decimated. High temperatures have led to flourishing beetle populations and enables them to infest trees at higher elevations. According to a recent study, pine beetles have expanded their infestation by 400,000 acres. The infestation is primarily concentrated in the state’s northern mountains. The infestation has been moving north and east from the Granby and Winter Park area towards Laramier County. It is estimated that beetle kill will leave behind a deforested area the size of Rhode Island.

Uses of Beetle Kill Wood

Although Beetle Kill has resulted in a significant amount of dead trees, there are some options for use of the trees after they are killed. For instance, Summit County has began composting by combining wood chips from beetle kill trees with other organic materials. By doing this, they are creating a product that could be used in landscaping and re-vegetation projects. The ancient practice of bio char is also emerging as an option. (see biochar). A product of the bio char process is a synthetic gas that can be used as fuel. Some forestry experts predict this fuel can be used to power plants where beetle kill wood is processed. Beetle kill wood is also being used in local projects. Multiple housing complexes are beginning to use beetle kill wood to replace sidings of houses, like a condo complex at Copper Mountain which is replacing old siding with blue-stain wood, which is named for the dark color in the wood that is caused by fungus carried by the pine beetle. Local Interior Designer Drew Witmer is experimenting with the wood and used it to build the fixtures in the Jiberish clothing store.[2] The Beetle Kill Trade Association has been established to “to unite and align the self interests of business invested in or interested in the removal and recycling of standing beetle killed lodgepole pines in order to remove obstacles to the creation of a viable, vibrant and sustainable market for products utilizing beetle kill pines as raw material.”

Prevention

There are different trains of thought regarding beetle kill in Colorado. Some view it as a natural cycle while others believe it should be prevented. Unfortunately, prevention measures such very expensive and not practical. Chemical treatments applied to lodgepole pines in the spring is effective, but the costs are $50 per tree in addition to annual treatments as needed. Although human efforts to stop beetle kill outright in Colorado may be futile, some are taking measures to help alleviate the side effects of beetle kill, such as wildfires. Currently, measures are being taken by Colorado politicians to help this issue gain attention nationwide. State Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, and state Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, have testified that wildfires caused by beetle kill could be detrimental to the nations water supply and damage the nations electrical grid. In doing this, they hope to help Colorado receive more federal funding for forest fire prevention and water purification that occurs because of beetle kill.

Works Cited

Berwyn, Bob. Aspen Colorado | AspenTimes.com News. Web. 02 Nov. 2009. <http://www.aspentimes.com/article/20090410/NEWS/904109967/1058/rss>.

Colorado Beetle Kill Trade Association. Web. 02 Nov. 2009. <http://cobeetlekilltradeassociation.com/>.

Leatherman, D. A. "Mountain Pine Beetle." Colorado State University Extension. Web. 02 Nov. 2009. <http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05528.html>.

Moscu, Jim. "How the Pine Beetle is Destroying Colorado Forests | Newsweek Environment | Newsweek.com." Newsweek - National News, World News, Health, Technology, Entertainment and more... | Newsweek.com. Web. 02 Nov. 2009. <http://www.newsweek.com/id/148297>.

Pankratz, Howard. "Beetle-kill rate in Colorado "catastrophic" - The Denver Post." Home - The Denver Post. Web. 02 Nov. 2009. <http://www.denverpost.com/ci_7967666>.

"Pine Beetles Kill High Elevation Lodgepole Pines of Colorado «." Dot Alpine Blog. Web. 02 Nov. 2009. <http://dotalpine.wordpress.com/2009/02/09/pine-beetle-kills-high-elevation-lodgepole-pines-of-colorado/>.

Williams, David. "Beetle kill on the Hill; Colorado lawmakers make funding case in D.C. «." Colorado Independent. Web. 02 Nov. 2009. <http://coloradoindependent.com/31436/beetle-kill-on-the-hill-colorado-lawmakers-make-funding-case-in-dc>.

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