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Pine Bark Beetle Changes Scenery at Wyoming Campgrounds

Miller Lake campground 2011 (MRorabeck/TSM)

Have you visited your favorite campground this summer?

On our recent trips to the mountains, we noticed some big changes in the scenery due to the Pine Bark Beetle infestation.

Our favorite campground at Miller Lake, near Fox Park in the Medicine Bow Forest, was closed to camping and now is a firewood collection area. Most of the lodgepole pines around the campsites have been cut down because of the insect epidemic.  The welcome shade from the canopy of trees was gone, leaving lots of open sky.

Along Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie, the devastation is obvious. Dead and dying red-colored pine trees nearly outnumber the green healthy evergreens.

Earlier this Summer on a picnic to Vedauwoo, we noticed large areas where trees had been removed and were stacked as firewood. Some parts of the campgound were unrecognizable from our previous visits over the years.

A 2008 Rocky Mountain News article describes the unprecendented pine beetle infestations as “catastophic.” It predicted that every large, mature lodgepole pine forest in Colorado and southern Wyoming would be dead within three to five years. That looks like it’s coming true.

Forest officials warn hikers and campers to watch out for falling trees. Economies in some of the small mountain towns may see losses as visitors decrease due to the lack of scenery. As we’ve seen in the past, nature will recover. Forests in Yellowstone National Park flourished years after devastating fires there. The abundant sunshine on the now open meadows will encourage new growth but it will take decades.

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