For a while now, beetle kill forests and trees have been a hot topic in Colorado; the mountain pine beetle has killed a large number of our lodgepole pines. Those red, dead trees you see as you drive up I-70 are beetle killed pines. The lodgepole pines make up about 8% of our 22 million forest acres, or about 1,760,000 acres, of which beetles have killed about 70%. Some people say that this is a natural process and that we need to let it happen. Others say it’s destructive and out of control. It’s been estimated that the beetles will leave a deforested area the size of Rhode Island when they’re finished. And as a result, the decomposing trees will release carbon, which is thought to contribute to climate change. However, burning the forests is dangerous and will also contribute to our climate problem. Unfortunately, the cost of preventing beetle kill is about $50 a tree. $50 A TREE.
So what do you do? Find creative ways to use the lodgepole pines that have been killed in order to help this process become less devastating. Beetle kill wood can still be used, and is actually quite pretty. Summit County has started composting beetle kill trees for landscaping purposes. A practice called biochar is becoming an option, as it uses the wood to produce synthetic gasses that can be used as fuel. Beetle kill wood works as siding, and we’ve seen it in multiple home renovations across Denver. Beetle kill hardwood floors are becoming popular, as well as tables, and even guitars. This just proves how awesome Coloradans are: making something cool out of anything.
Recently, Denver International Airport has installed a super innovative, gigantic sculpture made of beetle kill pines. Called “Shadow Array” by Patrick Marold, a Denver artist, the sculpture features 236 beetle kill logs from the Del Norte forest in southern Colorado. Right behind the hotel, and near the entrance of the upcoming transit center, it surrounds the train platform for a visually cool “welcome” to DIA. Each log weighs about 2,500 pounds and had to be lifted individually into place on steel structures. When the hotel opens on November 19, guests will be able to view the sculpture from all angles. There are lights on it that move and change as the day goes on, and help play off of the sunlight on the sculpture.
Patrick Marold is also responsible for art installations, such as the Windmill Project, Virga, Avian Front, and many cable and string projects. The Windmill Project is a landscape-based sculpture installation that uses wind and light to create glowing landscapes in Kjos, Iceland, Vail, Colorado, and Burlington, Vermont. Virga can be seen in Denver on the Delgany pedestrian bridge. It consists of stainless steel tubes that will eventually support a canopy of vines. Avian Front is located between the Denver Zoo and City Park, and consists of salvaged steel piping to make a barrier between the two, over 400 feet long. The cable and string installations can be seen throughout the world.
As much of a problem as beetle kill is for our forest, Coloradans will find a way to make it a positive thing in our state – one more reason we love it here!