Udall, Bennet seek to double appropriation in 2012 farm bill
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service needs more money to stay on pace with removing beetle-killed trees from western forests, and Colorado’s two senators this week introduced an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill that would double the budgeted amount from $100 million to $200 million.
The bill would encourage the Forest Service to partner with the private sector to develop some economic value for the dead trees, something that has proven to be a vexing challenge for struggling sawmills in the region and for proponents of using the wood for energy, who have gained very little traction as more and more studies show that large-scale bioenergy from forest products is not sustainable.
“Anyone who has driven through Colorado’s high country has seen the effects bark beetles have had: leaving our mountain sides streaked with stands of red and brown trees,” Udall said, referring to a bark-beetle epidemic that is now waning, leaving most of the trees as gray ghosts. “I continue to echo the concern that we cannot turn back the clock on bark beetles, but we can relieve the immediate risk to human health and safety by removing beetle-killed trees from high-risk areas,” Udall said.
The focus the past few years has been on logging around residential areas, roads, trailheads, campgrounds and power lines, he said, adding that biomass energy facilities and traditional sawmills can convert this problem into jobs and revenue.
“Colorado’s forests continue to be devastated by the bark beetle epidemic, and dead and dying trees threaten public safety and the viability of our watersheds, infrastructure, and critical water supplies,“ Sen. Bennet said. “The amendment will help Colorado continue its work to safely remove dead and dying trees in a way that creates jobs and spurs economic growth, while protecting Coloradans who want to enjoy the natural beauty that our state has to offer.”
Fighting bark beetles has broad bipartisan support throughout Colorado. Wildfires and declining forest health can threaten not only Colorado’s high country communities, but also the watersheds that provide drinking water and agricultural irrigation water for our urban and rural communities.
The 2012 Farm Bill includes several critical provisions related to forest health that encourage more efficient and effective treatments for insect and disease infestations. The provisions reflect similar policy prescriptions included in Udall’s National Forest Insect and Disease Emergency Act, which was initially considered by the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2010.
The 2012 Farm Bill would also reauthorize stewardship contracting, which enables the U.S. Forest Service to contract with small businesses to remove forest products from federal land in an effort to improve, maintain and restore forest health; improve wildlife habitat; and reduce the risk of wildfire.
Udall also has proposed a second amendment with Bennet that would allow the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to continue cooperative agreements with state foresters to plan and implement forest health projects on more acres, more efficiently. The amendment would extend the “good neighbor” law for Colorado through September 2017.
Bark beetles are responsible for killing more than 41.7 million acres of trees throughout the western United States, including 21.7 million acres of trees in the intermountain west alone. More than 17 million of these acres in the intermountain west are on U.S. Forest Service land.
Filed under: Colorado, Environment, Forest health, forests, pine beetles, pine beetles and wildfires, US Forest Service Tagged: | bark beetles, forest health funding, Mark Udall, Michael Bennet, pine beetles, United States Forest Service