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Summer Reading: 'Our Dying Forests'

Sure, summer reading lists are usually filled with the latest mysteries or epic dramas to hit paperback. But for your list, consider adding a series of reports by the Salt Lake Tribune, "Our Dying Forests." The series recently claimed the The Grantham Prize for environmental reporting and tells a story that contains some mystery and a whole lot of drama—but is unfortunately non-fiction.

Around 40 million acres of Western forests have been lost to mountain pine and spruce beetles in the past 15 years. "That's as much space as all of America devotes to its lawns," writes Salt Lake Tribune reporter Brandon Loomis. In the ongoing series, which began in 2011, Loomis, photographer Rick Egan and editor David Noyce explore the underlying causes for the beetle outbreak.

The Columbia Journalism Review praised the journalists for their balanced approach: "The articles do an admirable job of covering scientific disagreements about the hatch rate of beetles, the impact of forest loss on grizzlies, the fire risk of dead trees," writes Curtis Brainard. "They weigh the arguments and attempt to give readers a sense of who makes the strongest case."

Scientists point to rising temperatures, forest fire suppression and a lack of deep freeze events, which historically have killed off the beetles, as factors that are fostering the current beetle outbreak.

While it focuses on the impact that the dying forests have on the ecology and economy of Utah, the series also surveys the toll the beetles are taking across the West, on everything from ski resorts in Utah to grizzly bears in Yellowstone Park.

—Mary Catherine O'Connor

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