2013-06-08

Invasion of the Beetles, and a Rancher’s Revenge

FOUR years ago, the trees on Larry Lipson’s property in western Montana began to die. Not just one or two, but 10,000 of them. The culprit was the mountain pine beetle, which has ravaged 23 million acres of forests in the United States since 2000.

With his father and stepmother, Dave and Nadine Lipson, he owns 37,000 acres that include a cattle ranch, a resort and a 10-mile stretch of the Blackfoot River, other parts of which were featured in the 1992 film “A River Runs Through It.” The infestation had the potential to ruin their business, which banks on the area’s scenic beauty.

“Having a resort in Montana with no trees is a big problem,” Mr. Lipson says. So rather than watch the bugs turn the land into a tinderbox for wildfires, the Lipsons decided to take steps to stop the beetles in their tracks. In the process, they found a way to turn their ravaged wood into something useful: a material for making accessories for Apple products. Their story offers lessons in adapting when an environmental crisis hits and, more broadly, how to be resilient in the face of adversity.