"Screaming Trees"

"A growing beetle infestation is killing the forests of western Colorado. To some, it’s the unassailable evidence of the shifting climate. So why are there so few calls for action either there or in Washington?"

"DILLON, Colo.—Dan Gibbs keeps dead beetles in the back of his beat-up Chevy Silverado. He has a wooden block with beetles impaled on it, each insect about the size of a grain of rice. He’s got vials of embalmed beetles and their larvae. He carries around pieces of wood that show what those tiny beetles do to a mature lodgepole pine: They drill deep into the trunk and infect the tree with a fatal fungus that stains its wood blue.

Gibbs isn’t a scientist. He’s a commissioner for Summit County, a high-altitude slice of Colorado that’s gaining fame as a ground zero, of sorts, for an epidemic that has devastated pine forests across North America. Twenty years ago, the mountainsides around Dillon were a lush green; these days, they’re gray with needle-less trees.

The pine-beetle epidemic provides perhaps the most visual evidence of climate change in the United States. But that evidence, while arresting, remains circumstantial. Scientific studies linking the factors that drove the epidemic to rising global temperatures haven’t convinced everyone, let alone prompted people here to forsake fossil fuels.

It isn’t just the dead trees. Here, near the headwaters of the Colorado River, the snow is melting earlier—and there’s less of it. Summers are drier. Threats of wildfire and water shortages have grown, changing lives and livelihoods in Colorado and across the West."

Sophie Quinton reports for National Journal June 15, 2012.

SEE ALSO:

"Colorado Wildfire Could Burn All Summer, Officials Fear" (Los Angeles Times)

Source: National Journal, 06/15/2012