“Beyond Bark Beetles” films explore our changing forests

Emilene Ostlind from the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources introduces us to bark beetles and forest health in a new series posted at beyondbarkbeetles.org. We’ve embedded a few of the videos here, but be sure to visit their website to watch them all.

Whether you play regularly in forests or simply live downstream of one—even hundreds of miles away—bark beetles affect you in some way. PCT hikers, horseback riders and volunteers see standing dead snags, the skeletons of trees killed by beetles, along the trail’s length. Eventually those dead trees topple, and everyone must scramble over and around them.

Bark beetles, including the mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle, have raged through the forests of western North America over the last decade and a half, turning green mountainsides red and then gray as they kill millions of trees. A new series of short films explores the bark beetle epidemic to help people who visit forests—and rely on them for resources like clean drinking water—understand this tiny insect and the changes it is bringing.

The series opens with an animated film introducing viewers to the beetle and revealing its natural history. Then viewers meet a range of characters dealing with bark beetles in different ways, from volunteers cleaning up a campground to a rock climber watching the forest around her favorite local crag change as trees die, from a watershed manager ensuring one city’s water supply stays safe to a posse of scientists tracing the path of water through the dying forest. Filmed in Colorado and Wyoming, the videos were produced as part of a collaboration between the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and the University of Wyoming Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources.

This unprecedented beetle outbreak has swept from the U.S.-Mexico border far into Canada. Warm winters allow beetles to reproduce and survive in great numbers, while drought weakens trees, making them more vulnerable. At the same time, bark beetles are native to western North America and as the film titled “Regeneration” describes, forests have faced the insects in the past and grown back stronger than before.


Watch the entire video series about bark beetles. For more information and maps, visit the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Health Protection website.

Author: Jack "Found" Haskel

As the Trail Information Manager, Jack works to connect people to the PCT. He's involved with a wide variety of projects that help the trail, the trail's users and the community that surrounds the experience. He has thru-hiked (Pacific Crest Trail in 2006; Colorado Trail in 2008; Continental Divide Trail in 2010) and is an obsessed weekend warrior.