The topic title comes from a program that Jean Muenchrath, the Artist-in-Residence coordinator at RMNP, puts on with other staff and volunteers every Tuesday evening at 7:30 at the Moraine Park campground ampitheatre. Using Beatles music, they try to educate the public, as well as entertain, about the mountain pine beetle that has been ravaging the park in recent years (check out a Denver Post article about the outbreak in the area). Particularly, the beetle attacks the lodgepole pine. When I saw the brown trees on arrival, I knew exactly what it was, as Alaska has been ravaged by a similar beetle, the spruce beetle, in the last fifteen years.
U.S. Forest Service research seems to indicate that the expansive infestation is made possible through global climate change. While the beetles have always been there, they have not been able to effect such large areas because they cannot be as active during colder temperatures. In regions that are experiencing shorter periods of colder temperatures, the beetles are allowed to thrive longer, and thus wreak more havoc.
I wanted to photograph the heavily-impacted west side of the park, where whole hillsides are covererd with brown and bare trees impacted by the beetle. I found a certain beauty in the reddish brown color matched against the rich green of unaffected lodgepole pines. But I also wanted to document the beetle kill areas because it is an impact on the park, regardless of whether you think it is good or bad – it is nonetheless an impact. Another impact I explored while I was in the park is visitation, as the park gets three million visitors per year. But that is the subject for another blog post.