2013-08-01

Imminent conflagration or hype?

Snow was falling lightly on a winter evening, but I was comfortable sitting by a fire of lodgepole pine. I had cut logs and split the wood, dried it for a year.

This evening I had started with dry kindling, then piled on the lodgepole; the fire was warm and bright. But my brother called and that distracted me for 30 minutes. When I returned, the fire had gone out.

The mountain pine beetle has been at epidemic levels for more than a decade, and this epidemic is 10 times greater in magnitude than any previous epidemic. The geographic extent of the epidemic is difficult to grasp; it reaches from New Mexico to the Yukon Territory and from the Front Range of Colorado to the Pacific Ocean. But it has also been more intense than previous epidemics, with very high mortality of mature lodgepole pines.