A second life for forests killed by beetles

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Photo: Beetle-killed trees
Colorado has millions of acres of beetle-killed trees. Some of them in a 75-mile radius of Gypsum will be cut into wood chips and trucked to the biomass plant. The facility will burn them to create enough electricity for 10,000 homes. Holy Cross Energy, the utility in the area, will buy the power.

"In 2013, National Forest projects led to enough timber harvested to construct 25,000 homes," said Dan Jirón, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region of the US Forest Service.

Beetle killed trees are also fueling biomass plants, thermal energy plants and furniture makers, and acting as soil amendments for gardeners.

That's good news, because while a new survey of Colorado forests shows that the mountain pine beetle epidemic has slowed dramatically, there are other bark beetles on the rise.

Ash trees are threatened by the emerald ash borer along the Front Range, and in the high country, spruce beetles are on the rise.

The spruce beetle outbreak has expanded by 216,000 new acres in 2013, compared to 183,000 new acres in 2012. The total area affected by this beetle since 1996 has reached more than 1.1 million acres.