Grand Lake, Colo., is regarded as ground zero for the pine beetle epidemic in the West. The mountainsides are blanketed with dead trees as far as the eye can see -- infested by the burowing insect whose grip on the forests is at least partially attributed to climate change.
Insecticides can work on a small scale, but the beetle's wide range through ten Western states and British Columbia make expansive use of poisons ecologically unfeasible. The best hope, scientists say, is winter, which can provide temperatures cold enough to kill the beetle's larvae.
But temperatures need to be well below zero for several days on end -- something that has not been seen in the region in the last decade or so.
"Since the beetle has taken over the forest, the timber industry has been revived in Colorado," says Joe Bonn, owner of J. Bonn Wood products in Steamboat Springs. "If the trees aren't harvested, they're eventually going to burn."