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Climate change is becoming more apparent here in the Roaring Fork Valley. From smoke to drought, we're still understanding how it all affects our community. But how do trees fit into the big picture? Our news team is trying to answer that question by examining the unique relationship between our valley's trees and the climate crisis. Support for In the Woods comes from The Longview Foundation of Minnesota.

Bark beetles on the move in Aspen, and how the climate crisis is driving local infestations

Halle Zander / Aspen Public Radio
Adam McCurdy, forest and climate director at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, looks at trees killed by Douglas fir beetles. McCurdy, pictured on Aspen Mountain on Sept. 24, said that if the burning of fossil fuels is not reduced, the number of fires and beetles will increase.

An aerial survey released by the U.S. Forest Service in February shows bark-beetle populations spreading across Colorado over the past 20 years. In the Roaring Fork Valley, the Douglas fir beetle is most prominent. Forestry experts say local forests might change dramatically as beetle populations grow and climate change worsens.

Beetles once evolved naturally alongside trees and kept forests healthy. The insects typically accelerated unhealthy trees' demise and decomposition process, but now the beetles are more likely to attack healthy ones.

Halle Zander reports on the beetle activity in the Roaring Fork Valley and what we might expect our forests to look like in the future. It’s the first installment of our series “In the Woods,” which looks at the links between local trees and climate change.

Support for “In the Woods” comes from The Longview Foundation of Minnesota.

Halle is an award-winning journalist and the All Things Considered anchor for Aspen Public Radio. She has been recognized for her work by the Public Media Journalists Association and the Colorado Broadcasters Association. Before she began working full-time with Aspen Public Radio in September 2021, Halle was a freelance broadcast journalist for both Aspen Public Radio and KDNK. Halle studied environmental analysis at Pitzer College. She was an educator at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and at the Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment program, where she taught youth radio and managed a weekly public affairs show.