Dr. Dominik Kulakowski Testimony

Bark beetles may kill trees, but that may not raise fire risk

A study in the Yellowstone region finds that the infestations actually reduced the risk of wildfire by thinning tree crowns. The bark beetle has spread across the West since the 1990s. Dire warnings have accompanied the armies of bark beetles that bored their way across the Mountain West in the past decade: Millions of acres had turned into a tinderbox of scraggly, dead trees ready to explode in flames. But scientists are pouring water on that conventional wisdom. A new study in the lodgepole pine forests of the greater Yellowstone region concludes that rather than increasing the wildfire risk, beetle attacks reduce it by thinning tree crowns.