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Pine Tree Beetle War Forces Hard Decisions

October 10, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Chemical war. Biological war. Scorched earth.

Having watched mountain pine beetles blitz the Continental Divide forests east of here for the past decade, leaving practically no mature pines living near the state’s capital, western Montanans are primed for a fight, the Idaho Statesman, Boise, reported.

“In Helena and Butte, they’ll have a whole generation that won’t know what (Montana) looked like,” said Nancy Sturdevant, a U.S. Forest Service entomologist who is nursing the Big Sky state’s wilds through the epidemic.

It’s an extreme example of a phenomenon that has consumed more than 40 million acres, including Idaho’s Sawtooth, Boise and Payette National Forests. Researchers say warming winters have aided the beetles’ survival beyond historic outbreak numbers. Average winter lows in Montana’s forested ranges have climbed 4 to 6 degrees in the past half-century.

But there’s also widespread fear that the government worsened the mess by letting the woods grow overcrowded. Now, with Montana’s battle shifted to the Bitterroot National Forest, the people of Missoula — a nearby college town usually inclined to let nature do its thing — aren’t giving the feds much choice after watching the eastern carnage.

Click here to read the entire story from the Idaho Statesman.

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