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Know the West

The lodgepole hegemony


Hillary Rosner's article puts undue emphasis on the negative aspects of the pine-bark beetle infestation affecting forests around the West (HCN, 8/17/2009). While it is a difficult adjustment for many of the area's residents and the cause of a few tragic deaths, this event has many positive aspects as well. In my view, it is a restoration toward ecological balance. Many species of plants and wildlife will likely benefit from the toppling of the lodgepole empire, including aspen, huckleberry, forest understory plants, cavity-nesting birds, elk, moose, bear and others.

Rosner portrayed the dense stands of lodgepole pines as the product of natural forces. Natural processes would have created a much more diverse forest; it is forest mismanagement that favored such dense single-species stands. The forests of the Fraser Valley will likely be healthier and more diverse in 15 years than they have been for the past 50. While our aesthetic sensibilities may be offended by the red needles, many seedling aspens are taking advantage of the light filtering through barren branches. These seedlings are already working toward reclaiming these areas from the lodgepole hegemony.

J. Sky Orndoff
Helena, Montana