Mysterious Ailment, in Wake of Pine-Beetle Invasion, Diminishes Fall Foliage
DENVER — This should be the golden season across the West, when aspen paint hillsides in shades of fall.But a mysterious ailment — or perhaps a combination of factors — is killing hundreds of thousands of acres of the trees from Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona through Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and into Canada, according to the U.S. government and independent scientists.The aspen die-off comes on the heels of a pine-beetle invasion that has destroyed millions of acres of evergreens. Foresters expect to lose virtually every mature lodgepole pine in Colorado — five million acres of them.Aspen and lodgepole pine intermingle across many Rocky Mountain slopes at elevations of 5,000 to 8,000 feet. Millions of the trees are now down or brown, transforming the landscape into a huge fire risk. To the dismay of hunters, the dying trees are decimating habitat crucial to elk, as well as to such smaller animals as wolverine, lynx and yellow-bellied marmot.
By Stephanie Simon, Oct 14, 2009 WSJ