On recent trips to the high country, you’ve likely been shocked by the large swaths of dead pine–the trees turned red-brown after becoming infested with tiny, bark-burrowing beetles. In all, the beetles wiped out a staggering 550,000 acres of forest throughout Colorado and Wyoming last year, bringing the total area in both states to four million acres since 1996, notes Reuters. “The significance is that the trajectory is moving north and east into more visible and populated areas,” says Janelle Smith, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.
In fact, it’s spreading to the Front Range, to places like Boulder County, where an additional 36,000 acres of ponderosa were affected in 2010 (compared with 1,600 in 2009), according to U.S. Forest Service data cited last week by the Daily Camera. Larimer County was hit even harder in 2010, with 181,000 acres infested, up from 16,000 in 2009. The problem spans into Canada, where a whopping 40 million acres of forest have been hit. The local forests struck hardest are the Arapaho, White River, Roosevelt, Medicine Bow, and Routt, points out the Associated Press. One Colorado State Forest Service program is responding by providing low-cost seedlings to help mountain landowners reforest devastated areas, reports the Summit Daily News.