Wyoming News Service, Casper, WY - Big wildfires in the forest backcountry through the West are often blamed on pine bark beetles, with the thought that those diseased and dead trees present a higher fire risk. The West continues to see one of the worst outbreaks of forest beetles in centuries.
A new scientific report from the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy questions that thinking, and is recommending that scarce tax dollars be spent on protecting private property and communities near forests, instead of cutting trees in roadless areas affected by beetles.
Report author Dr. Dominick Kulakowski says the bottom line is that drought and higher temperatures fuel backcountry fires, not beetles.
The report suggests that the limited money available to reduce forest fire risk be spent on community mitigation at the edge of the forests.
Western forests are seeing the biggest beetle outbreaks in decades, with millions of acres of lodgepole pines killed.