Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Barrens

Barren as in pine barren and also as in not fruitful.

The photo above shows a view across one of the lakes in Glacier National Park taken this summer when I traveled with my grand-son.  It might be St. Mary's Lake, but I am not sure enough to validate that.  While it is expansive and magnificent, I am sure you will notice the gray trees in the distance covering the entire hillside.  These are just a few of the many acres of dead trees throughout the west due to pine beetle damage  There are over 600 species of beetles in Canada and the United States.  The western pine beetle, Dendroctonus brevicomis is the one destroying forests in our Western lands.

According to the Forest Service, "In 2009, acres destroyed by the mountain pine beetle -- mostly in the forests of Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Idaho reached a historic peak of 9 million acres. Since, the numbers have been tumbling. About 6.8 million acres of forests showed pine beetle damage in 2010, and 3.8 million acres was affected in 2011."

While we were in the park, we talked to the rangers and they admitted that less and less was being done to reduce the spread of the bugs.  They have noticed the forest lands repair fairly rapidly with new plants and that many animals and other insects benefit from the reduction of dense pine lands and the access to new and different growth.  Of course, we all know this means an increased danger of forest fires and an increased danger of mud slides.  But, it does look like this infestation may be eventually running its course if left alone. 

If these forests were commercial in nature, I am sure that pesticides and various pre-burn strategies would have been used with still much of the same results we now are seeing, and perhaps, even more harm being done.  There are those in Congress that want to take these lands and sell them or lease them for the economic value they hold.  Having these acres sit idle like a homeless druggie is anathema to some in Congress.  To them EVERYTHING is a resource to be turn into a profit.

I, of course, am totally and wholly against selling or leasing any more of our national lands than we already do.  There are those greedy citizens who sign the federal lease of land for their cattle and then refuse to pay that lease or refuse to follow any restrictions placed on these precious lands so that they are grazed sustainably, and it now appears we do very little to enforce them to pay their way or adhere to the lease.  Why would we let them destroy even more of this precious natural land making it available for commercial applications and removing valuable habitat for rare and endangered species?  The grasslands as well as the forests are so important to various rare and endangered birds and need to be protected.

And shortly after I wrote this post I came across this.


Mage said...

We saw that happening when we took both the last train trip and the road trip through the mountains. Here we have a beetle that's killing our Eucalyptus. We were told that the trees were cut back they would recover or the trees could be heavily watered and they would live. I note that they are all dying. I miss them.

barbara judge said...

Interesting post. Just yesterday there was a forest fire off toward the Cascades here in Oregon. I believe it was put out by nightfall? Have not heard the damage figures. We are losing our great forests at an exponential rate that is frightening. We even have commercial logging going on in our national parks that are paid for by the tax payers and given to the commercial corporate world to send to China. -- barbara