Colorado Sen. Dan Gibbs Wednesday afternoon testified in support of federal forest health legislation before a U.S. Senate committee in Washington, D.C.
The bill, sponsored by U.S. Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and James Risch (R-Idaho), would provide the U.S. Forest Service with additional administrative tools to protect Western communities impacted by bark beetle outbreaks.
It was Gibbs's second trip to the Capitol for the hearing. It was first scheduled last month, but was canceled at the last minute when Senate Republicans, angry over the passage of health care legislation, used an obscure rule to block a number of hearings by various committees. Gibbs never had a chance to testify during his first visit.
"This has been an expensive couple of trips, but I feel passionately that we do need the federal government to step forward," Gibbs said. "Hopefully me being out there helped make a compelling case that we need resources to deal with this. ... Sometimes you have to bring awareness to people who don't see these dead trees in their backyards."
State Rep. Christine Scanlan also traveled to Washington to provide testimony at Wednesday's hearing.
"This bill is incredibly important to Colorado," Scanlan said. "We are now gaining some real momentum here in Washington."
Scanlan that new information from the Department of Agriculture makes clear the severity of the risks posed by the bark beetle epidemic, which has spread to 2.9 million acres in Colorado.
During the hearing, Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Harris Sherman said 100,000 dead and dying trees fall every day in Colorado and Wyoming forests impacted by the beetles.
"Blow-down of these trees is not talked about near enough," Scanlan said.
Falling trees are closing campgrounds, loading fuel near the forest floor, closing roads and threatening infrastructure like power lines, Scanlan said.
According to Udall, the legislation would enable the Forest Service to better protect communities and watersheds from catastrophic wildfire in anticipation of the upcoming fire season.
Both Scanlan and Gibbs used personal funds to travel to Washington for the hearing.
Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or email@example.com.