Roger Marolt: Roger This |

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

“Would you rather walk or bicycle through dead trees or live trees? That’s what it’s all about.” Really? That’s it? It sounds more like a new verse to the old Hockey-Pokey than the latest local alarmist scenario to get worked up over. Nonetheless, that is a quote from the man, John Bennett, spearheading the group, For the Forest, in its mission to save the world, at least the portion of it that Aspenites dress up in Lycra and ride their mountain bikes through. It is not Darth Vader or developers we are fighting this time, it is the sinister pine beetle.

This bugs me. Am I the only one who doesn’t get why a group called For the Forest is up in arms and out in numbers trying to frighten us into eradicating the pine beetle from our back yard? Are people’s lives in danger? Are people’s properties at risk? Do the damn things even bite?

No. If we take Bennett’s own words at face value, we are doing this because we don’t like the looks of dead trees when we are out working on our cardiovascular fitness or being inspired by nature, or at least our own ideals of how it should appear.

County Commissioner Rachel Richards is “concerned.” “Time is short,” warned representatives from the “conservation” group, For the Forest. Phrases such as “brood trees,” “epicenters” and “exponential spread” are being bandied about in doomsday discussions reminiscent of those about Y2K. Two experts have been hired by the city and county (presumably one for each) who are working with state forestry officials to formulate recommendations that will be presented to the open space boards of both governments, which will then make recommendations to their respective elected officials.

Are you kidding me?! By the time this process is complete, every conceivable question about the eradication of pine beetles nesting in the lodgepoles of Smuggler will have been answered, except for one: “Why?”

Sorry, the choice of riding my bike through dead or alive trees is not compelling enough for me to get behind this movement. I’ll take nature as it comes. Are any of us truly shocked, scared or even mildly saddened when we see the thousands of acres of infected red trees as we pass by Lake Dillon on our way to Denver? I’m not. I actually feel a sense of awe when I see what the raw power of nature has done over there with the tiny pine beetle as its instrument. I am curious to see what happens next. Perhaps a massive forest fire will follow. Then, maybe the birth of a brand new forest! How incredible would that be to witness in our lifetime?

I don’t know about you, but I feel a bit cheated that I have never seen any of the immediate change wrought by the massive Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980 or the wildfires of Yellowstone in 1988. The events and the subsequent recoveries of affected lands were, and are still, reportedly spectacular.

Go ahead and argue that the only reason that the pine beetle has flourished in the forests surrounding us is because global warming ” which we are responsible for ” has created favorable conditions for their proliferation that wouldn’t normally exist. What if I happen to agree with you? Does that sway my opinion that our efforts to combat the pine beetle are idiotic (not to mention futile)? Not in the least.

Have you considered that nature is the greatest, most effective, and absolutely perfect force on earth in reacting to change for its own survival? That said, I admit that I know of no link between the infestation of the pine beetle and a resulting reduction or counteracting force to rising global temperatures. But, neither am I bold enough to second guess Mother Nature in her encouraging this to happen. Maybe the multiplication of pine beetles isn’t linked to reversing the accumulation of greenhouse gasses, but I bet that there is some positive natural purpose for the little critters going viral.

So, yes, this entire to-do makes me wonder. Perhaps the group leading this charge should have been named Against the Pine Beetle instead of For the Forest, because I don’t really believe they have the long-term interest of any forest in mind.

The estimated cost to cut down roughly 200 trees on Smuggler Mountain is running at about $30,000, or $150 per tree. For what it’s worth, that’s a lot cheaper than what it might have cost a midnight landscaper to cut them down on Hopkins Avenue two summers ago, had he/she been busted. On the other hand, Tim Mooney might do it for free. Whatever, For the Forest believes it can raise half the cost of the project, “depending on what plan of action is approved.”

For the record, if the correct plan of action is approved in this debacle, I will personally cover the entire cost of it. I have that amount in my bike shorts right now.