Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Changing of the Leaves and the Landscape of the Rocky Mountains

I have come across news reports on NPR and in the Wall Street Journal about the decrease in Aspen trees in Colorado. So far, over 500,000 acres of Aspens have died off in Colorado. In fact, this decrease in the Aspen tree population is also occurring in Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming and parts of Canada. There is a variety of opinions on the cause, which range from the severe drought in the West to run of the mill pest and fungus and wild life. There is also the rise in the pesky pine beetle, which is wiping out the evergreen trees. In fact, it is expected that Colorado will lose virtually every mature lodge pool pine, a total of five million acres.

This will result not only a huge environmental impact in this area but a huge economic impact. Millions of people travel to states like Colorado during the fall to see the turning of the leaves of the Aspen trees. If these trees die off, so ends this picturesque spectacle along with the tourist dollars. Tourism is down this year already; however, part of it is due to the recession. Add in the disappearance of fall's main attraction, the small towns scattered throughout this part of the country may feel more of this recession pain.

Foresters and scientists are working on solving this mystery; however, unfortunately, there may not be any clear cut answer. We may be seeing the last of the Aspen and change in the Western landscape forever.

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