Andrews: Best uses for beetle-killed trees

The smokey haze from wildfires that has been lingering over Western Slope skies for the past two weeks is a reminder that our own beetle-kill fueled fire season is upon us.  

The most recent Colorado State Forest Service survey presented the following statistics on beetle-kill:

  • More than 834 million trees destroyed by Beetle-kill are rotting in Colorado forests.
  • Over 22% of standing trees in Colorado forests are dead.
  • Since the mid-1990s, mountain pine beetle has affected 3.4 million acres of ponderosa-lodgepole pine in Colorado, while the spruce beetle has killed 40% of Colorado’s Engelmann spruce forests.
  • In total, beetle kill has ravaged some 5.1 million acres of forest in Colorado.
  • Wood products created by logging store carbon.

Although beetle kill has resulted in a significant amount of dead trees, there are options for use of the trees after they are killed. Beetle-kill harvesters and woodworkers are using beetle-kill lumber for siding, furniture, framing lumber, cabinetry, paneling and finish molding.

The Forest Service charges beetle-kill harvesters $20 to remove two cords of wood here in Colorado. Rotting trees increase greenhouse gasses in forest ecosystems by 25%.

With more than 834 million dead trees moldering away in our forests here in Colorado, we need to compensate people to harvest that decaying fuel, and we need to incentivize producers to sell beetle-kill products free from federal taxation.

In the Legislature we should work through the Agriculture Committee to introduce legislation to pay people modest amounts to harvest beetle-kill lumber from our forests. Include action to eliminate federal income taxes on products sold that are made with at least 51% beetle-kill wood. Expedite Interior Department approvals of logging roads to allow for harvesting of beetle-kill lumber. Find co-sponsors in inter-mountain states with beetle-kill.  

Russ Andrews

Carbondale, a GOP candidate for 3rd Congressional District