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Warning! Danger! The Trees are Dying!

Warning! Danger! The Trees are Dying!

Colorado River

This photo is of the Colorado River headwaters as it pours out of the Rocky Mountains, just south and west of the Rocky Mountain National Park. It was taken in the summer of 2005. It's a beautiful scene, but if you look closely, you notice the dead trees.

The trees are Lodge Pole pine trees that have been infected with the Pine Bark Beetle. These little pests are destroying all the trees in the Rocky Mountains. And they are moving to destroy what's left. Very large swaths of the trees across the mountains are dead and brown. When the beetles are done with the trees, the very dead, dry branches hang down, as evidenced by the trees on the left in the foreground. They look so sad with the dead drooping branches, like they cried themselves to death.

It's been impossible to stop these bugs. Many people have their trees sprayed with insecticides, but that only slows the beetles down; it doesn't kill them. And the dead trees are, of course, a fire hazzard, and must be taken down.

Rocky Mountains

In this photo, taken a couple of years later, the dead trees appear gray. The brown trees from the previous photo, will turn gray with time.

Rocky Mountain National Park

This is an upclose view of the damage the bettles can cause. The yellow trees are Aspens turning in the fall. And just this week, I heard that the Aspen trees are beginning to die off. They have a 20 year live span and many are just dying.

We, as a state, national, and as a global community, have lost a great deal to these beetles. The trees are a large part of the eco system. They add oxygen to the air, and filter out harmful particles. The face of the Rocky Mountains have changed, and will not be the same in my life time. The loss of the beautiful trees that make the Rockies so remarkable have changed the face of the mountains, permanently.

The positive note to all of this is that the Forestry Services tells us that the die off of all these trees will produce a more diverse vegetation, and help to protect the forest against the beetles next invasion.



Marianne Snygg, GRI, ABR, ASP
Broker Associate
ERA Herman Group Real Estate

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Colorado Springs and Monument Real Estate

Comment balloon 13 commentsMarianne Snygg • October 29 2009 02:23PM


Marianne, It really is frightening, isn't it? I posted about this last year - after a trip to RMNP and down into Grand County. I was stunned at the destruction these beetles have caused. A good 80% of that county's trees are dead or dying. Often in very high end real estate areas and ski resorts. Can't help but wonder what effect that will have on values. Worse yet, what it holds for our entire forest's ecosystem....


Posted by Debi Boucher, "Realtor Showcase" - Real Estate Photography/Virtual Tours ( Real Estate Showcase Photography) over 10 years ago

Hi Marianne,  I have been to areas like Dillon and have seen the forests - it is devastating in some areas, especially those with a lot of Lodgepole.  I guess it is a natural cycle, and the beetle doesn't usually attack young trees- so the forest will regenerate, and hopefully be healthier.

I wish they would lift restrictions for logging in the forests - get the dead wood out, and thin the healthy trees - but then, no one asked me. :-)


Gorgeous photos, by the way!

Also, we could freeze them out, if temperatures fell well below freezing ( I think it -40 degrees) for 2 weeks... but that's not likely to happen ! LOL!

Posted by Mary Douglas, REALTOR, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado (United Country Ponderosa Realty, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado) over 10 years ago

Marianne - The Lake Tahoe area also has a problem with those beetlesl.  The danger can come during fire season, when the dead or dying trees haven't been removed and become a tender box for flames.  Lake Tahoe had an upclose experience with that a couple years ago.

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) over 10 years ago

Hey, Marianne. While your photos are amazing, I hate to hear about the trees. Thanks for sharing, Jim

Posted by Jim & Maria Hart, Charleston, SC Real Estate (Brand Name Real Estate) over 10 years ago

I hate to see that.  Were the beetles brought in to Colorado from another country?  Are there any natural solutions that would have the beetles on their menu?  Thanks for letting us know about this Marianne.

Posted by Sharon & Bruce Walter, West Lafayette homes for sale (Keller Williams Realty Lafayette, IN) over 10 years ago

Debi: It is terrible. We have a little place in Grand Lake, and when we go up there now, we can see some of those pricier homes because they've had to cut down the trees on their property. It is a shame what it's doing to the ecosystem. Thanks for your comments.

Hi Mary:If you've traveled to Dillion from Red Lakes, then you've seen the terrible damage these little creatures have done. We took a trip from our place in Grand Lake over to Steamboat, thru Rabbit Ears Pass. And the amount of dead trees thru there is phenomenal! It's mind boggling how many dead trees. So sad. And about the freezing, you are right! I hate the cold weather, but I'd rather have the trees than the warm winter. Let it freeze, let it freeze, let it freeze!

Myrl: Oh no! How sad! I used to live in San Jose, and trips thru Sacto to Tahoe were frequent. I used to think I was going to retire in one of the little towns of Hwy 49. But, now I'm here. Our fire season comes with the summer and lightning strikes. Fires are scary. I really hope we don't have one, but really, it's a tender box waiting to explode. Thanks for stopping in.

Hi Jim: It's really sad to see. Then couple that with the natural dying of the Aspen trees, and our mountains will not green up this summer. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

Sharon: I don't know how they got here, or when, or from where, but, I do not that the natural solution to the beetles, and why they haven't been a big problem in the past is the weather. If the weather would just drop to below 40 degrees for a couple of weeks, without relief, it would kill them. But, it's too late now. This needed to happen about 4-5 years ago. It's another effect of global warming. Thanks for dropping in!

Posted by Marianne Snygg, ABR, ASP, GRI, SFR (ERA Herman Group Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Marianne, this has already happened for the most part to our forest east of Cedar City.  It is a tragedy!

Posted by Tony & Darcy Cannon, The C Team (Aubrey and Associates Realty) over 10 years ago

Marianne, our photo story is sensationally beautiful. And it speaks volumes by photo illustration of a real tragedy. I saw a lot of this at Yosemite and I asked why so many trees are dead. Some by disease and some intentional clearing away the old so the new seedlings get the light. What you have illustrated so well about the beetle is realy sad.  We need a bird that likes eating beetles?. Guess there are no known sterilization methods for the Beetles?

Posted by William Johnson, Retired Real Estate Professional (Retired) over 10 years ago

Tony & Darcy: I know, it's everywhere that the Lodgepole pine trees grow. What a shame. Glad you stopped in.

Hey William: It's hard for the birds to get to the beetles because they bore under the bark. A natural deterent is cold weather, except we've had such warm winters in the last 10 years, that it never gets cold enough to kill the beetles. Plus, the trees are under stress already because of lower than usual rain fall. If there's anyone out there that doubts global warming, all they need it to take a look at our forests. Thanks for stopping by.

Posted by Marianne Snygg, ABR, ASP, GRI, SFR (ERA Herman Group Real Estate) over 10 years ago

I drive over to Denver 5 or 6 times a year, I was just over the mountains last weekend. It is a terrible sight by Silverthorne it seems like there are very few pine trees left alive, thousands of acres of dead pines. I fear for a huge forest fire in the next few years.

Posted by Alan Brown, 29 Years of Real Estate Experience . (Coldwell Banker Montrose Colorado) over 10 years ago

Oh Alan, exactly! It's just awful. Fortunately the beetles are bothering the young trees, but they're too small to be called trees yet. Have you been over Rabbit Ears Pass? Even worse, if that's possible. What a shame.

Posted by Marianne Snygg, ABR, ASP, GRI, SFR (ERA Herman Group Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Sorry to read about this.  I used to live in Colorado, and can't wait until we move back.  I had no idea of the damage to the trees.

Colorado is so beautiful, hope it gets under control.


Posted by Sandra Mathewson, CRS,ABR,SRES,GRI,CDPE RE/MAX (RE/MAX 4000) over 10 years ago

Hi Sandra, thanks for stopping by! The trees are a total loss. It'll take regrowth of the forest to before its under control.

Posted by Marianne Snygg, ABR, ASP, GRI, SFR (ERA Herman Group Real Estate) over 10 years ago

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