June 26, 2008

Bark Beetle Infestation Subject of Symposium

By Cramer, John

Scientists, economists, land managers and others will gather Thursday in Missoula to discuss the worsening infestation of bark beetles across the West. "Red Tree," a one-day public symposium, is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the University of Montana's University Center Ballroom. The symposium is free, but registration is required at 542-4300.

Mountain pine beetles and other bark beetles have killed millions of acres of trees from Alaska to the Southwest in recent decades, turning forested slopes a telltale red as they die.

In Montana, more than 750,000 acres representing 2.4 million trees were killed by mountain pine beetles in 2006.

Bark beetles, which reproduce inside the bark of trees, are part of a natural process in mid-altitude lodgepole and ponderosa pine forests. The insects infest both living and dying trees in a cycle of devastation and regeneration.

But in recent years, the mountain pine beetle has extended its range to whitebark pines at higher elevations as temperatures have warmed in the Rockies.

Whitebark pines, which also are being killed off by white pine blister rust, are a key food source for grizzly bears and other wildlife.

Presentations at the symposium will be made by entomologists, wildlife biologists, foresters, forest industry representatives, elected officials and others.

They will discuss the potential causes, including drought and warming temperatures, and ecological and economic impacts of the bark beetle outbreak on Montana's forests.

The symposium is sponsored by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the UM Applied Forest Management Program, the Montana State University Extension Forestry Program and the U.S. Forest Service.

Copyright The Missoulian Jun 4, 2008

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