Take a drive or a walk through many of Colorado's mountains, and you'll see a whole lot of dead trees. Mostly lodgepole pine killed by mountain pine beetle, the gray trees look like prime kindling, some standing, many fallen like so many pickup sticks across the landscape. The mountain pine beetle has killed 46 million acres of the West's forests, leaving a scar no forest visitor can miss.
Conventional wisdom has long held that these beetle-killed forests are more likely to burn. They certainly look that way. But scientists have been questioning the idea that such forests burn more for a few years. A 2013 study from Colorado State University pointed the finger at drought, not bark beetles, for increased wildfire. Now a new, more comprehensive study from a team of scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder has found that forests with widespread beetle kill are not more likely to burn.