Lost Lake Logging.

In states like Colorado, the climate emergency is amplifying natural processes within forest ecosystems. One of those processes is native mountain pine beetle infestations that are impacting Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine forests. In contrast to historic infestations, millions of acres of lodgepole pines have been killed all at once over a short span of time, dramatically increasing forest fuel loads. Paired with unprecedented drought conditions throughout the American West, this increases the chance for catastrophic wildfires which burn much hotter than historic wildfires, sterilizing up to 12 inches of soil. This is important to note because it takes roughly 1,000 years to create 1 inch of soil in forest ecosystems.

People are split on what to do with lodgepole forests that have been impacted by mountain pine beetle infestation. Some believe leaving the dead trees where they are gives the forests a chance to eventually return to homeostasis. Others feel that removing the trees speeds up the natural process by somewhat mimicking what happens during historic wildfires. Many private landowners are opting to capitalize on the infestation by selling contracts to have lodgepole pines removed for sale and export.

There are pros and cons to both arguments but one thing is for sure, the unprecedented loss of North America’s lodgepole pine forests is negatively impacting snowpack, making current drought conditions throughout the region worse.

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