Pine Beetles, Forest, and Wildfires
For years we trekked through National Forest noticing the dead and dying pine trees apparent victims of Pine Beetle infestation. Last year we were having lunch on the lower slope of a mountain in Washington’s Sawtooth Wilderness and my partner commented on all the “Nuthatches” a species of bird that feeds on pine beetles as they flew around going tree to tree feeding on the insects, they were small and quick and if we were not sitting quietly immersed in the environment around us we might not have even noticed them above our heads, but we were and it was amazing to see the number of birds in an apparent feeding frenzy. We were not surprised however as the entire valley we came up was full of downfall and the trail had been abandoned long ago we hiked for miles to get to this place and most every tree was dead or in the process of dying due to Pine Beetles. I told my partner at some point there is going to be a massive wildfire in this drainage there was just so much fuel stocked up over time and waiting for an ignition source you could see the players, variables, carnage, and potential for wildfire in front of you. I will be the first to admit that wildfires in the forest and wilderness areas are a natural process and essential for healthy ecosystems they thin the under brush and tree density putting nutrients back into the ground while allowing wildlife to move freely in more open terrain but decades of human encroachment, fire prevention, and longer, warmer, drier climate especially in the West has prevented the wildfire cycle from doing it’s job resulting in an accumulation of fuel and increased pine beetle populations. It has become a viscous cycle but one scientist understand and the Department of the Interior and it’s down stream agency’s have started implementing more modern and realistic policies and procedures yet the elephant in the room that increases temperatures and the length of the dry seasons while decreasing precipitation and moisture content in the trees known as climate change continues while it may be the most important variable that needs to be dealt with.