Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bark beetles force closure of regional campgrounds

The Associated Press
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Vacationers will have fewer places to pitch their tents this summer in Colorado and Wyoming, and they can place the blame on bugs.

The U.S. Forest Service has closed some popular campgrounds in the two states because of concern that trees killed by the bark beetles that are ravaging forests across the West could topple onto visitors.

Bark beetles have always been a part of forests in the West, but warming temperatures and an abundance of aging lodgepole pines that haven't been thinned by fires have allowed populations of the hungry insects to explode. They now infest nearly 3,600 square miles of forest in the two states.

Swaths of 60-foot trees killed by the quarter-inch bugs may be easily toppled by wind or other disturbances.

"If they were to fall on a tent camp, they would probably kill or injure the people inside," said Francisco Valenzuela with the Forest Service in Washington, D.C.

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