The University of Montana’s 28,000-acre outdoor classroom has been forced to do some traumatic logging in the past few weeks as a pine-bark beetle infestation sweeps the hillsides. Even in a place where thousands of trees carry identification tags for ongoing research projects, the speed of the beetle-kill took managers off guard.
“The beetle population is so devastatingly high,” UM interim School of Forestry Dean Jim Burchfield said on a recent forest tour. “We’ve never seen a beetle outbreak this big.”
The southeastern side of the forest has been hit especially hard. An aerial survey last August found between 80 percent and 85 percent of the lodgepole and ponderosa pine trees either dead or soon to be. Those species make up about half Lubrecht’s forest cover.