Pine beetles bite into summer recreation
Grand County, CO Colorado
Do what we can, summer will have its flies.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
And pine beetles, I would hasten to add, at least across much of the West.
The year’s longest days are upon at last. Summer and most of its attendant high country glories have arrived. Rivers are clearing and receding, grasses are greening, flowers are blooming, lakes are filling, humming birds are humming, festivals are festing and fish are rising.
But not all of summer’s offerings will be on the menu this season: Access to many of our cherished public lands will be limited because of falling trees.
In May, U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Rick Cables told members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee that he expects 100,000 trees a day to fall in the national forests in Colorado and Wyoming for the next 10 years. Because of related public safety concerns, he said Forest Service officials may have to consider closing some national forests altogether.
That suggestion was greeted in communities dependent upon summer recreation with all the enthusiasm of a pig roast at a Taliban picnic.
Which is understandable. Closing entire forests is a bit over the top.
After all, while 100,000 trees per day sounds like a catastrophic event, spread out over the 4 million acres of beetle kill in Colorado and Wyoming, that’s about one tree per 40 acres per day.
Odds that one of those trees is going to fall on a hiker or mountain biker are pretty slim, though in concentrated use areas such as campgrounds, the danger is certainly worth mitigating.
Thus, we face closures such as Byers Creek Campground in the Fraser Experimental Forest, which will not open this season. Plus, many forest trails and roads in Grand County normally open by this time of the year remain closed because of fallen trees.
Forest Service officials – not to mention Mountain Parks Electric and county road crews – face a truly daunting task as tens of millions of dead lodge pole pines approach their unavoidable date with gravity.
Keep your head up and your eyes on those creaking trees. And try to be patient with the people charged with keeping our trails and roads open – the beetle kill epidemic is literally blowing away their status quo.
It may be summertime, but the living is not easy for some people in Grand County. While many of us are busy chasing the sun, others are chasing elusive jobs.
Teens in particular face a difficult job market. Some estimates put the teen unemployment rate as high as 40 percent nationwide this summer.
In Grand County, I can’t help but think there ought to be some convergence between this issue and the one above.
Just a thought.
Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads out there. The fortunate among us owe much to our fathers and their invaluable counsel. I know I do. And, I know I’d be better off today had I paid greater heed to some of that counsel.
Among the many characteristics my father instilled in me, one I value as much as any, is knowledge of and an abiding affection for the outdoors, beetle kill or no beetle kill.
– Drew can be reached at (970) 887-3334 ext. 19600 or at email@example.com
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