Thu February 17, 2011

Leaders Come to Aspen to Discuss Shrinking Forests

Scientists, environmentalists and former vice president Al Gore are gathering in Aspen tomorrow to discuss climate change and the West’s shrinking forests.

Organizers of the event call it a “teachable moment,” citing the Mountain Pine Beetle as an example. The tiny insect has killed an estimated 3.6 million acres of forests in Colorado and Wyoming. And recent forest fires and Sudden Aspen Decline have taken a toll, too.

“You put them all together, and the forests of the American West are severely threatened,” said John Bennett, executive director with the nonprofit For the Forest, which organized the event. “We didn’t know of a public forum that had been held to look at the broad overview of what’s happening with forest health and the fact that climate change seems to be behind a lot of it.”

Bennett says the goal is to educate the public and link the shrinking forests with climate change. For example, he says the wildfire season is 78 days longer today than it was 20 years ago. Bennett says if that trend continues, some projections show the West could lose as much as half of its forest land.

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