McInnis assails environmental groups over spruce beetle spread |

McInnis assails environmental groups over spruce beetle spread

Staff Report

U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis is criticizing environmental groups for delaying Baylor Park logging aimed at controlling a spruce beetle outbreak.

An additional 2,000 trees in Baylor Park, southwest of Glenwood Springs, were infested this summer. The Forest Service had hoped to begin the logging before that spread but was stopped by a lawsuit by the environmental groups.

“The spread of this outbreak could have been severely limited, had the project been allowed to move forward in a timely manner,” McInnis, R-Grand Junction, said in a news release. “Instead, because of the repetitive delays from these groups, more time and more money must be spent to deal with a now larger area.

“Enough is enough. It’s time to let a little common sense guide us on how to stop this threat now by allowing the Forest Service, the experts, to do their jobs.”

McInnis, R-Grand Junction, is chairman of the House Resources’ Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. His comments came in response to a recent Post Independent article regarding the lawsuit.

The logging project, which would yield 11.3 million board feet, was created to deal with a spruce blowdown on almost 3,000 acres in 1999. The White River National Forest decided to conduct the logging in August 2001, but it was first appealed at an administrative level and then subject to a lawsuit by Colorado Wild, Aspen Wilderness Workshop and the Center for Native Ecosystems.

The Forest Service analyzed three alternatives for the project. Two involved salvaging damaged, down and dead timber. The one it chose would involve twice as much timber as any of the other alternatives and would include commercial thinning of live trees. Environmentalists oppose this thinning.

Environmentalists contend the Baylor Park logging violates the WRNF forest plan and national environmental laws. They say the Forest Service failed to fulfill its duty to monitor, and analyze impacts to, wildlife such as the lynx, Colorado River cutthroat throat, northern goshawk and other species of concern.

The Forest Service considered this past summer a make-or-break year for fighting off beetles after the blowdown left trees susceptible to an outbreak. The beetles had begun reproducing the previous summer, but last summer they took flight, spreading to other trees.

Environmentalists contend that their appeals have done little to slow logging. Rather, they say, the busy fire season of 2000 caused the Forest Service to be slow in producing a logging plan, and this year’s fire season probably would have delayed its implementation even if a lawsuit hadn’t been filed.

Environmental groups also question how effective logging is in controlling beetle outbreaks, and suggest the cure is worse than the disease, due to the number of live trees proposed for logging.

McInnis hailed the Forest Service’s continuing efforts to implement the logging, and called upon environmental groups to cease legal delays.

“Beetle infestation is a cancer on our nation’s forests, and like cancer in humans, needs to be dealt with immediately to slow down or prevent the spread of the sickness,” said McInnis. “Unfortunately, the actions of these three groups have prevented any medicine from being administered, allowing for no cure to occur and the outbreak to spread. The direct result of these group’s interference should serve as a wakeup call to all those who believe we should just sit back and do nothing when it comes to caring for our forests,” McInnis said.

He said the groups that sued “have only proven they have completely fallen off the beaten path of common sense and will bear the responsibility for reducing the credibility of mainstream environmentalist groups on forest health and management issues.”

He said not acting to stop the spread of the beetles could have a greater impact on wildlife and their habitat than stopping the logging, if a wildfire ignites among fallen trees.

The groups and the Forest Service have been seeking to reach a settlement over the lawsuit, and a meeting with a magistrate reportedly may take place Jan. 28.

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