Lawmakers plan attack on pine beetles | AspenTimes.com

Lawmakers plan attack on pine beetles

Ashley Dickson
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Framed by red pine needles of a tree that has succumbed to the mountain pine beetle, Sen. Dan Gibbs and Rep. Christine Scanlan. center, share their strategy for facing the epidemic during a news conference at the Frisco Nordic Center Sunday. (Eric Drummond/Summit Daily)
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FRISCO, Colo. ” Local elected officials are calling for greater statewide involvement in the pine beetle infestation problem, and the growing media attention is now narrowing in on Summit County.

Four different television networks were in attendance on Sunday at the Frisco Nordic Center as Sen. Dan Gibbs and Rep. Christine Scanlan announced a new bill that will focus on combating the growing devastation caused by the pine beetle.

The new bill, The Colorado Forest Restoration Act of 2008, will continue to seek out funding for a more comprehensive long-term solution to the pine-beetle infestation.

Last year, Sen. Gibbs secured $1 million in grant money through the Colorado Forest Restoration Act to support projects that protect critical watersheds, the first-ever state funds dedicated to a pine beetle-related issue.

“We are looking to continue with the efforts started by Sen. Gibbs to come up with a more comprehensive long-term strategy,” said Rep. Scanlan.

“We need to make this issue a priority for the local, state and federal governments.”

The U.S. Forest Service recently reported that pine beetle infestation grew at an “unprecedented rate” in Colorado last year, affecting 500,000 additional acres.

The dead and dying trees left in the beetle’s wake create major problems for fire mitigation, thus effecting other issues like increased siltation of reservoirs and other public water supply facilities.

“The beetle itself has won the war but there is a lot we can do to help protect against fire, water safety, etc.,” said Sen. Gibbs.

“There are a lot of communities that would love the opportunity to receive some grant money to help fight the problem locally.”

In addition to the added fire risk, Sen. Gibbs said the infestation is beginning to have an impact on local tourism, which could have a significant effect on Summit County economy.

There are now 1.5 million acres of dead or dying lodgepole pines, and the appearance of completely brown forests does little to entice visitors to the mountains.

“At this point we need a long-term vision on how to rebuild a more diverse forest for our future generations,” said Rep. Scanlan.

“A new growth cycle will continue but we must find a way to manage the current situation.”

Sen. Gibbs and Rep. Scanlan received unanimous support for the bill from their colleagues at the statehouse, proving that the pine beetle problem is quickly gaining ground as a statewide issue.

adickson@summitdaily.com.


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