Wildcat Falls Update

I’m back from spring break (and I took some photos on my walk today, until it was interrupted by rain from the northern edge of that killer severe weather system, but then I realized I must have left my camera cable at work). Anyway, today I got the following email from someone involved in the effort to save Wildcat Falls:

We lost the appeal.  Basically they just repeated the same things they said before.  They know there are disadvantages but they feel the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

We plan to sue.  Our lawyer believes this is illegal, even though they say they’ve observed all rules.  We need to raise $6500 to start and if we win the USFS pays the lawyer fees.  I don’t know which organization will house the fund but I can let you know.  If everyone who signed the petition gave $6 we’d have it!  Of course $25 or $50 is always better, but any amount would be appreciated.
We’ll try to figure out how to raise money online…

I’m not optimistic, I’m afraid. Also, I’m sorry to anyone who got spammed by after signing the petition; I had no idea that was going to happen. Sigh…

The Last Days of Wildcat Falls

Yesterday I went on a hike to an out-of-the-way corner of the Ottawa National Forest called Wildcat Falls. A sizable group had gathered along the gravel road to walk back to the waterfall – nearly a hundred people, I believe. The reason we were there was that by the end of this week, Wildcat Falls and the surrounding parcel of land may no longer be in public hands; if we return next week, we might be trespassing. The U.S. Forest Service is planning on trading this parcel to a private land developer in return for an equivalent area of… clear cut. The developer plans to log this area and then subdivide it for residential lots. (Click on any thumbnail to bring up a slide show.)


There is no way that my hastily shot photos can do justice to the waterfall with its water stained golden by tannin, or to the ancient rock outcroppings and magnificent  stand of old-growth hemlock and cedar surrounding it. It was breathtaking. Several groups have filed an eleventh-hour appeal trying to convince the Forest Service, and if you would take a moment to sign the online petition sometime in the next couple days, I would appreciate it. At the end of the week someone is going to print out the “signatures” and hand-deliver them to the office where the decision is being made. (And heck, go ahead and sign it even if you don’t live in the U.S. You still know what old growth forest means. Maybe a few signatures from the U.K., Australia, etc. will help catch someone’s attention.)

If you still need convincing, here’s a YouTube slideshow comparing the Wildcat Falls area with the land it’s being exchanged for:

Thank you!


The Mountain Pine Beetle

As you drive through Rocky Mountain National Park you see a lot of mountainsides (started to type hillsides and corrected myself!) that look like this.

I admit to increasing the color saturation on this photo slightly to bring out what I want you to see, but the large swaths of red-brown trees are obvious regardless. Something is attacking and killing large numbers of lodgepole pines. The culprit is the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae.

The dead and dying trees are everywhere you turn.

Pine beetles are native to North America, but droughts and warm winters (likely due to global warming) have led to an unprecedented explosion in their numbers. They infest a pine tree by laying their eggs under its bark, which introduces a fungus into the tree that blocks water and nutrient transport as well as the flow of the sticky pitch, with which the tree might otherwise defend itself. (This is actually similar to how the invasive ambrosia beetle, which I’ve written about previously, attacks bay trees.) Apparently this leads to characteristic blobs of pitch forming on the surface of the bark, and if I’d known that I’m sure I could have found examples to photograph but I didn’t know what I was looking for while I was there.

One of the more effective management techniques is to remove affected trees before the beetles can spread, and we saw some places in the national park where tree removal had been taking place.

Unless something changes, this epidemic could continue indefinitely. Very sad.