Colorado Beetle Kill
The mountain pine beetle is a member of a group of insects known as bark beetles. These beetles live out their life cycles within the bark of trees, except for when adults emerge and attack new trees. When outbreaks are extensive, millions of trees may be killed.
The beetles infest the lodgepole pine, which makes up 8% of Colorado’s 22 million acres (89,000 km2) of forests. Lodgepole pines are found at elevations between 6,000-11,000 feet. The last notable outbreak occurred in Colorado in the 1970s but was significantly less detrimental than the current infestation. Of the 1,760,000 acres (7,100 km2) of lodgepole pine, about 70% of them have been decimated. High temperatures have allowed beetle infestations at higher elevations. According to a recent study, pine beetles have expanded their infestation by 400,000 acres (1,600 km2). The infestation is primarily concentrated in the state’s northern mountains. The infestation has been moving north and east from the Granby and Winter Park area towards Larimer County. It is estimated that beetle kill will leave behind a deforested area the size of Rhode Island.
Uses of Beetle Kill Wood
Although Beetle Kill has resulted in a significant amount of dead trees, there are some options for use of the trees after they are killed. For instance, Summit County has begun composting by combining wood chips from beetle kill trees with other organic materials. By doing this, they are creating a product that could be used in landscaping and re-vegetation projects. The ancient practice of bio char is also emerging as an option. (see biochar). A product of the bio char process is a synthetic gas that can be used as fuel. Some forestry experts predict this fuel can be used to power plants where beetle kill wood is processed. Beetle kill wood is also being used in local projects. Multiple housing complexes are beginning to use beetle kill wood to replace sidings of houses, like a condo complex at Copper Mountain which is replacing old siding with blue-stain wood, which is named for the dark color in the wood that is caused by fungus carried by the pine beetle. Local Interior Designer Drew Witmer is experimenting with the wood and used it to build the fixtures in the Jiberish clothing store. Denver Design Build used the material to build many of the fixtures used by the US Open of Snowboarding. The Beetle Kill Trade Association has been established to “to unite and align the self interests of business invested in or interested in the removal and recycling of standing beetle killed lodgepole pines in order to remove obstacles to the creation of a viable, vibrant and sustainable market for products utilizing beetle kill pines as raw material.”
Another company, owned by Randy Piper, GreenWay Building Products, LLC (http://www.BeetlekillWood.com) has been marketing and providing Colorado beetle kill wood that they market as "Blue Pine", for flooring, paneling, and siding for almost 8 years now. The company offers three quality levels of beetle kill wood in both unfinished and pre-finished wood products. Pine flooring, paneling, and siding has been utilized in the Northeast for almost 300 years, and GreenWay is launching a national wood flooring and paneling program for dealers and remodeling outlets in select markets in the summer of 2013. The appeal of this Eco-friendly, gorgeous and exotic appearing wood is in growing demand by architects, designers, builders, and homeowners throughout the country. GreenWay's 'blended value' business model seeks to bring social and environmental benefits together with a sustainable and responsible economic model that allows both public and private landowners to reduce or eliminate the cost of treating affected lands. Mr. Piper points out that the current model is simply not working, as it requires landowners, Federal and State governments to pay for the removal of timber in order to protect threatened infrastructures of communities, water, power, communications, transportation, and recreation and tourism. Further, it should be noted that hundreds of millions of tons of carbon will be released into the atmosphere as this dead timber decays or burns, and science believes that this will only serve to advance the warming and drought cycle, thereby further devastating Western Forests. In addition to the beauty and the story behind these unique, once in a lifetime wood products, utilizing these dead trees for wood products captures the carbon that would otherwise be released.,,,
There are different trains of thought regarding beetle kill in Colorado. Some view it as a natural cycle while others believe it should be prevented. Unfortunately, such prevention measures are very expensive and not practical. Chemical treatments applied to lodgepole pines in the spring is effective, but the costs are $50 per tree in addition to annual treatments as needed. Although human efforts to stop beetle kill outright in Colorado may be futile, some are taking measures to help alleviate the side effects of beetle kill, such as wildfires. Currently, measures are being taken by Colorado politicians to help this issue gain attention nationwide. State Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, and state Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, have testified that wildfires caused by beetle kill could be detrimental to the nations water supply and damage the nations electrical grid. In doing this, they hope to help Colorado receive more federal funding for forest fire prevention and water purification that occurs because of beetle kill.
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