Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
'Tree Fighters' battle beetles one pine at a time
One man's army of volunteers works to keep killer bugs away

< Previous Page

At one point, despite the group's combative moniker, Fix found herself actually hugging a tree. She gave it a pep talk: "You're pretty. Love you. Keep growing." Then, at a dead tree where Gonzales peeled back bark to reveal tunnels of beetles and larvae, she lectured the insects.

"You're just beetles and you don't know any better," she said. "Stop being so aggressive."

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Gonzales has the look of so many outdoorsy men who have come to this valley: tall with the sinewy torso of one who scales cliffs and skis uphill.

He dug into his own pockets to fund his group's first season last year, putting $7,000 on credit cards to buy Verbenone, which ended up on 600 trees. In a sense, it's an outdoor-recreation expense the same as climbing gear or skis, but he's quick to protest that, unlike some who follow their passions to a resort town, he still has to work - photographing occasional weddings or editing commercial videos.

"I'm no 'trustafarian,' " he said.

This year, the Forest Service donated Verbenone and offered suggestions for places the agency wants cone-bearing trees to survive. It's a way for the feds to increase their reach.

The conservation work is becoming something of a job for Gonzales. By contracting with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, he has started going back to where it began on that chairlift and taking tourists to the top to learn about the dying whitebark.

Those visitors pay $100 for the ecotourism experience of applying Verbenone, and his share helps him focus more time on the volunteer excursions instead of side jobs. More important, he said, tourists get to reach out and feel an organism that climate change is afflicting.

"When you bring people out here," he said, "you're involving them in the story in a way that you can't involve them with melting ice caps or bleaching corral reefs."

It's a connection he hopes will make a difference in how people use energy, the root of this forest's collapse, he believes. In the demise of an otherwise-invisible alpine forest, Gonzales thinks visitors might foresee what excessive carbon-dioxide emissions could do to all life.

story continues below
story continues below

"It's up to the American consumer to decide whether we want to choke to death on our own farts. That's embarrassing." Gonzales said. "It's up to us to decide we could live proportional lives and not flagrantly use so much more energy than we need."


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.