Pine Beetles Can Set Stage for Disastrous Forest Fires
Herald and News
Klamath Falls, Oregon
November 6, 2006
Let’s hope the area forests aren’t in for for another massive infestation of the mountain pine beetle. Outbreaks of the beetles take place place periodically, leaving behind thousands of acres of dry, brown trees, just waiting for a spark. It’s a catastrophe in the making.
The beetles apparently are on the march again, going after the lodgepole pine and other tree species in central Oregon.
Forest Service officials met last week at Diamond Lake Campground, about 80 miles north of Klamath Falls to discuss ways to deal with the outbreak.
Mountain pine beetles tend to attack trees that are already weakened. In some respects, the beetles are finishing a process that’s already begun.
The pine beetles have swept through the upper Klamath Basin before. In the 1980s, they left behind wooded areas that were forests in name only.
In addition to Diamond Lake, beetle infestations have been found at Lemolo Lake and in the Pumice Desert of Crater Lake National Park.
“Up here, we have an awful lot of high-risk stands,” said Don Goheen, a U.S. Forest Service entomologist at the Diamond Lake Meeting. “If our hand was forced, we would say there’s a high probably of an outbreak in five to 10 years.”
According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, thinning is essential to dealing with such outbreaks.
That’s also a good practice before the beetles show up. The insects attack trees in forests that are already stressed, and likely to be overcrowded.
That’s also a good argument for letting some natural wildfires to burn, though under carefully monitored conditions. That can help restore a variety of tree species with a variety of ages to the forest, which is more likely to be a healthier forest.
Meanwhile, let’s hope the next outbreak isn’t as bad as the last one.