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Climate: Bark beetles invading high-elevation forests

Whitebark pines are in imminent danger of extinction, and global warming is one of the most significant threats to the species. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Whitebark pines are in imminent danger of extinction, and global warming is one of the most significant threats to the species. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

Researchers see threat to whitebark pines

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Bark beetles have already killed millions of acres of mid-elevation forests across the West, and warming temperatures are enabling the tree-killing bugs to invade higher elevations, where they are attacking trees that haven’t evolved with strong defenses to repel them.

Global warming is essentially giving the insects a huge advantage, as the trees, with their long lifespans, have no chance to develop biological resistance, according to researchers from the the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who report a rising threat to the whitebark pine forests of the northern Rocky Mountains. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: Congress challenged on wolf delisting

Western lawmakers use budget battle to advance their anti-wildlife agenda

Gray wolves in the northern Rockies. PHOTO BY THE US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In the big congressional budget battle last month, wolves may have been one of the big losers, as a rider attached to the spending bill by western lawmakers removed Endangered Species Act protections for the carnivores in Idaho, Montana, eastern Oregon and Washington, and northern Utah.

It’s the first time that Congress has successfully meddled in the field of conservation biology, but the move won’t go unchallenged. Conservation advocates, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, last week filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging Congress on constitutional grounds. The lawsuit claims that Congress violated the separation of powers provision included in the Third Amendment. Get more information on wolf conservation at the Center for Biological Diversity’s wolf web page.

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Spring wildfire potential high across southern U.S.

Below normal precipitation and warmer than average temps will up the significant wildfire potential across a broad swath of the country from the south-central to the southeastern states.

La Niña continues to affect spring weather across the country; drought areas grow

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A trio of related factors will combine to keep the fire danger above average in the Southeast and south-central portions of the country during the spring, according to the forecast from the National Interagency Fire Center.

La Niña conditions that bring warmer and dry conditions to the southern tier of states and in the southern and central Great Plains will increase significant fire potential, while persistent drought across parts of the southern and central U.S. and the mid-Atlantic seaboard will also up the potential for wildfires.

The fire center also says that fuels have been unusually dry across the southern tier of states, expanding areas of “above normal” significant fire potential westward across across southern New Mexico and into southeast Arizona and northward into the Colorado Front Range central plains. Increasing fuel dryness is also expected to expand northward from Florida to the southern and mid-Atlantic seaboard. A warmer-than average February prevailed across parts of the intermountain west and the mid-Atlantic states. Near normal or colder than typical temperatures were observed elsewhere. Continue reading

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