Thursday, 15 March 2012

Forest Film Festival in Saratoga WY

“Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  - Aldo Leopold (1887-1948)
P and I attended the first evening of films in the Forest Film Festival in Saratoga Wyoming. The first short film was a music video made by friend Ali Grossman of the band Oatmeal Stumble playing their song Bark Beetle Blues. I must admit that it was kind of surprising to see a series of films in a Wyoming Ranching community in which climate change and global warming were mentioned over and over again.  This is a place where most people want to deny climate change and call call the bark beetle kill off a "natural cycle". Literally millions of acres of Rocky Mountain forest have been destroyed by the pine bark beetles.  If it's a cycle, it's a long one, White Bark Pines over 800 years old are being killed by beetles.  They are threatened with extinction, a dead end, not a cycle.

The loss of the forest was addressed by the first three short films and was followed by a presentation by local forest service employees. The forest service presentation was earnest but hollow. In the face of up to 90% of the forest dying, they played down climate change. Instead,  they talked about the concrete steps they are taking in the face of the tragedy.  Last year, for example, they cleared 600 acres of dead trees in the Medicine-Bow and Route National Forest campgrounds - as a public safety measure. They'd love to be able to sell off beetle-kill timber to get some of the deadwood cleared, but there is no infrastructure to do so and beetle kill lumber prices are so low it's not worth anyone's while.  There has been some interest in using the deadwood for biomass co-generation, but again, there currently is no infrastructure in place.  The forest service speakers showed some graphs projecting pine marten and pine squirrel populations. According to their graphs, the populations will  drop dramatically within the next 5 years, to near zero, but then the graph rather optimistically rises, projecting that populations will rebound to levels higher than they currently are - the time scale was 200 years. Of course woodpeckers populations are on the rise.

 The evening ended with a showing of the Aldo Leupold biography Green Fire which I had not seen and enjoyed immensely. As someone commented in the film, Leopold presented his ideas very simply but they are extraordinarily deep ideas that deserve our attention.

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