[Preliminary note: I took plenty of pictures along the way but am having difficulty uploading them to a site I can point to. When I get that taken care of, this post will include them.]
I attended “In Case You Missed It: America is in the Middle of a Drilling Boom and Energy Prices are Still High”, a talk given by a Wilderness Society economist yesterday in the Alliance Center, next to the Big Tent at the DNC in Denver, CO. I got plenty of good information from the talk, some of which I plan on blogging about in the future. I picked up a number of scientific papers issued by the Society that I will also use and distill in future posts. But this post will be about an opportunity that arose from my attendance at the talk.
Last night, I was approached by Suzanne Jones, Regional Director for the Wilderness Society, about the potential for a flight today over some roadless areas as well as areas that have been affected by the mountain pine beetle. The flight was provided by EcoFlight’s Bruce Gordon. EcoFlight is a non-profit organization that takes elected officials, media and concerned citizens in the air to get a different vantage point of important environmental issues. Accompanying us were Something The Dog Said, Ian Welsh from firedoglake, and a KGNU cameraman. I’ll see if I can locate his video later.
This flight, and the discussion we had before it, changed my perception of the problem slightly. I, like many in the Western states, have held the view that the extent of the problem is out of control and we must do something about at least some of the dead trees. I still view the problem as out of control. It’s likely more out of control than it probably should be, due to human’s climate forcing. However, I don’t thing we should necessarily do much in terms of dealing with the dead trees now. More on that later.
I’ve covered some of the details on this problem before. I’ve covered some of the reactions that folks have proposed or have begun. A short summary: last year, over 500,000 additional acres of lodgepole pine forest fell to the beetles’ spread, bringing Colorado’s total to over 1.5 million acres of affected forest. Responses have been initiated at the local, state and federal levels. Local efforts have been the first to start, for many reasons. The federal effort is still lagging, mainly due to Republican obstructionism in the Senate as well as subpar maneuvering by Democrats in both houses.
The view from the air is quite different from on the ground. That comes off as an obvious statement, and I even knew it would be so before we took off. Once over the affected regions however, the magnitude of the problem was astonishing. The CSU/Forest Service map of affected areas I’ve pointed to before succinctly presents the problem and most closely resembles what I saw from the air today.