Nature Calls: Beetle Mania Hits Western Parks
The beetles have arrived, but it's nothing to yeah-yeah-yeah about.
An invasion of the destructive bark beetle has caused a number of parks and forests in Colorado and Wyoming to close or delay openings of several camp and picnic sites.
It's hard to imagine that a bug the size of a raisin can cause so much damage. But then you don't know the bark beetle.
The black, hard-shelled villains burrow deep into pines, feeding and laying their eggs inside the trunk. Eventually, the trees can no longer receive water or nutrients, causing them to starve to death. To make matters worse, the beetles act like generous hosts who invite their whole extended family, plus friends, to come visit. One tree is not enough for these buggers, when they can inhabit the whole grove or mountainside. (Indeed, in Colorado alone, the beetles have infested about 44 percent of the state's 1.5 million acres of lodgepole pine.)
Besides the ecologic crisis, the infested trees also pose a threat to hikers and campers. Officials fear that the sick or dead trees will topple onto unsuspecting park visitors. Therefore, they must close specific areas to clear the trees (and hopefully Raid those evil bugs to extinction).
According to an Associated Press report, the U.S. Forest Service will close 21 campgrounds and recreation sites in Colorado and Wyoming for the summer; 17 additional sites will have delayed openings. Affected places in Colorado include the White River National Forest (six campground delays, three closures) and Rocky Mountain National Park (July opening of Timber Creek Campground, partial closures at campgrounds on the eastern side and in the backcountry). In Wyoming, officials at the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest will close the Hog Park campground and picnic site to clear an estimated 9,000 trees.
For more information on closures, check the Web site of the U.S. Forest Service. And to see what the tree-killer looks like, check out its mug shot at the University of Arizona's School of Renewable Sources.
By Andrea Sachs |
May 8, 2008; 11:52 AM ET
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