2008-10-05

An eco flight for the forest battles beetles

The single-engine, six-seater plane was banking toward Mount Sopris after a smooth takeoff from the Pitkin County Airport, when the experts on board pointed to the first indication of the mountain pine beetle infestation that is rapidly obliterating Colorado’s lodgepole pine forests.

We had taken to the air under the sponsorship of For The Forest, a new non-profit (www.fortheforest.org) that intends to study the beetle-kill phenomenon and educate the public about it. Then, organizers say, the group will look for ways to deal with the devastation that officials say is all but unavoidable in much of the state and across the nation and the world.

As pilot Bruce Gordon of EcoFlight aimed for the peaks of Sopris, a line of trees, perched along the edge of a deep defile on the flanks of the eastern peak, appeared to be just slightly ruddy in color compared to the verdant trees further away from the gulch.