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Feds throwing money at beetles

BOB BERWYN
Summit County Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Congress is promising more money to help build fire breaks in forested areas hardest hit by the pine beetle. Republican Sen. Wayne Allard announced earlier this month that he has secured up to $12 million to address the bark beetle epidemic in Colorado.

“We are facing a catastrophe in Colorado and this funding could not have come at a

better time,” said Allard. “These dollars will allow the federal government, state



government and private landowners to work collaboratively to mitigate conditions to

prevent a disaster.”



While there is no stopping the march of the beetles, more money is needed to create

fire breaks ” clear-cuts in the forest ” that can help protect communities from

potential wildfires associated with dead lodgepole pines.

More funding could also help expand stewardship projects, said Sandy Briggs,

organizer of the Summit County forest health task force, explaining that the

commercial value of the timber is so low that the Forest Service in some cases needs

money to directly subsidize the needed work. On the Dillon Ranger District, covering

Summit County, the Forest Service hopes to plan and implement extensive forest

health projects in the Lower Blue Valley, north of Silverthorne, and in the Upper Blue,

around Breckenridge.

In 2007, the Forest Service treated about 1,500 acres at a cost of $1.3 million. That

per-acre cost is still too high, District Ranger Rick Newton said at a recent meeting of

the forest health task force.

The unit treatment cost could come down if a new bill introduced by Rep. Mark Udall

passes muster in Congress.

Speaking during a telephone press conference this week, Udall said one of three

forest-related measures he is introducing would incentivize private companies to use

beetle-killed trees for renewable energy production.

The measure amends the broad energy bill that was recently passed by clarifiying

the definition of biomass as a renewable energy source. Udall said.

The bill could make it easier for entrepreneurs to work with the Forest Service and

local communities to gain access to beetle-killed timber.

Udall introduced another bill that would cut Forest Service red tape by reducing, and

in some cases eliminating, environmental analysis required for forest health projects.

Well aware of environmental concerns about streamlining logging proposals, Udall

said the bill is narrowly targeted to lands that are infested by beetles and within the

boundaries of a community wildfire protection plan.

Combined, Udall’s the proposed legislation would help forestall potentially serious

impacts to Colorado’s tourism industry and also protect water supplies in mountain

communities, Udall said.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996 or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.


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