State reps introduce beetle bill in D.C.
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
WASHINGTON, D.C. ” The entire Colorado legislative delegation introduced a federal bark beetle bill on Tuesday that would commit up to $22 million to help the Forest Service and local communities combat the threat of wildfire and protect water supplies in the state.
Colorado’s seven members of the House of Representatives introduced the legislation, called the Colorado Forest Management Improvement Act of 2007, on the House floor, while the state’s two senators presented the bill in the Senate.
“Already portions of Colorado are burning and the dead trees left in the wake of the bark beetle epidemic present a ticking time bomb waiting for a spark or a lightning strike,” said Republican Sen. Wayne Allard in a prepared statement.
The bill would make grants available to at-risk communities in Colorado for the creation of a community wildfire protection plan and would create central collection points for dead trees removed from forests.
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It would also allow for the creation of Healthy Forest Partnership Zones for high-fire risk areas in order to facilitate an effort between local communities and private industry to reduce hazardous fuels and fire risks to communities.
The legislation would make the Forest Service’s good neighbor policy permanent. That policy focuses on treatment and thinning projects on Forest Service land adjacent to private property.
Small business owners could also benefit from the bill’s proposed grant and low-cost loan component designed to help cover start-up costs for eligible businesses in the forest product industry. The bill would also provide grants for fallen trees to be reused as biomass in energy production.
Last year, several members of Colorado’s delegation introduced individual bills concerning the pine beetle epidemic sweeping through the state, but later agreed to work together to develop a consensus approach. The Colorado Forest Management Improvement Act is the result of that collaboration.
“This bill reflects a truly bipartisan compromise that will get resources on the ground to help deal with insect infestation,” said Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette. “Sound forest management should focus on reducing fuels in areas where people live, lowering the cost of treatment, and protecting our most sensitive wilderness areas.”
State House Rep. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, praised his federal counterparts for their legislation, saying it would complement his House Bill 1130, which established a $1 million state grant program for forest restoration projects.
“This federal bill provides the missing link to provide the necessary tools and resources to help communities in Colorado combat the growing wildfire threat due to the bark beetle infestation that has already infected 600,000 acres in Colorado,” Gibbs said. “I am committed to working with the Colorado delegation to ensure a speedy passage of this very important legislation.”
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