2010-03-29

Pine beetle fears misplaced

The current pine beetle “outbreak” that has led to tree mortality among Rocky Mountain forests has prompted some people to suggest that beetles are “destroying” our forests and that beetle-killed trees will invariably lead to larger wildfires.

At the heart of this issue are flawed assumptions about wildfires, what constitutes a healthy forest and the options available to humans in face of natural processes that are inconvenient and get in the way of our designs.

While it may seem intuitive that dead trees will lead to more fires, there is little scientific evidence to support the contention that beetle-killed trees substantially increase risk of large blazes. In fact, there is evidence to suggest otherwise.