Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Circle of Life

In 2003, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest first experienced an outbreak of Mountain Pine Beetles (bark beetles), which in the nine years since the infestation began have killed thousands of trees.  According to the Forest Service, in some areas along the north slope of the Uinta Mountains, these beetles have killed up to 90% of the trees.

The Forest Service’s priority in treating this epidemic has been focused on the health and safety of people and the protection of critical infrastructure.  This means reducing falling tree hazards at high use recreation areas, trails, roads, and power lines; and reducing wildfire hazards.
I have not seen an actual Mountain Pine Beetle, but I’ve seen the damage they cause.  This current outbreak has resulted in extensive stands of red and dead trees that will be visible for a long duration.  When the outbreak first began, the Forest Service attempted to spray trees, to remove beetle-infected trees from the impacted campgrounds, and to salvage trees killed by the bark beetles through timber sales.  Since then they have decided no longer to intervene and to allow nature to take its course.

This is the circle of life in the forest.  Mature trees are dying, and the infestation is a natural part of this life span.  Seeds from these trees will produce the next forest.  Indeed, it has already begun.  The photo shows that beneath the red boughs of a dying tree, three new trees have sprung up.  And the forest will go on. 

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