Pine beetles wanted | AspenTimes.com

Pine beetles wanted

Su Lum

We’ve all been hearing about, and seeing the evidence of, the voracious beetles that are gobbling up and killing our pine trees.Going over Independence and Vail passes, you can readily identify the rust-colored remains that now constitute a major fire hazard. I hate that infestation as much as anyone, but I can’t help wishing for a little overflow of beetles, with a taste for blue spruce, in my back yard.It was 1972 when I moved into my little miner’s shack on East Cooper, not as dark, dank and cold an area as, say, Oklahoma Flats, which was deemed virtually uninhabitable, but definitely the wrong side of the tracks compared with midtown or the West End.Two years later, my 9-year-old daughter Hillery came home with a 2-foot blue spruce tree in a plastic pot, which she had bought with $10 of her own money, a sapling accompanied by a lengthy list of instructions, which Hillery read aloud to me as I dug a deep hole, grumbling all the while that the damned tree would probably die and all that work would be for naught.I should have cut it down when it was Christmas tree-size, a fitting end for a rather scruffy tree, which now towers above the roof of the condo next door and constitutes a definite liability due to our tree-saving laws.While I think there was no excuse for willfully chain sawing the cottonwoods on East Hopkins Avenue, I also think the town has gone a little bit nuts in the tree department.Aspen was once as denuded as Leadville (there’s a town that could use some of our trees), but now there are areas of town where you can’t see the houses for the forest.In many cases this is an improvement, but I can’t believe it’s healthy to live in places that never see the light of day. Every year, neighborhoods get darker and darker as the darling little saplings grow and grow. I’m surprised that anyone takes advantage of free trees on Arbor Day because today’s tiny tree will be tomorrow’s sun-blocker with a price tag in the thousands to get rid of it down the road. And down the road, as those of us of a certain age well know, comes sooner than you think.Meanwhile the Aspen flora that used to flourish everywhere is all but extinct: the poppies, the wild roses, the lilacs and the rhubarb. Exempt from mitigation, these wild plants fall to the bulldozers on a regular basis but could be saved if a campaign were mounted to preserve them. Scrapers should put notices in the paper of impending destruction with instructions for transplanting, urging homeowners to pick the grounds clean.The flowers are lovely, the rhubarb is tasty, and they don’t block the view.Su Lum is a longtime local who should have planted a crab apple tree. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.


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