Udall staffers pledge help for forests | VailDaily.com

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Udall staffers pledge help for forests

Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., with his daughter Tess, greets supporters with a thumbs up at one of his campaign offices in Denver, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado – U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s staff attended the Colorado Bark Beetle Cooperative meeting on Friday at Colorado Mountain College to discuss legislation affecting national forests.

Jill Ozarski, from Udall’s office, spoke on his behalf about ways the senate can assist the cooperative.

“Sen. Udall’s biggest priority is hazard tree work that will remove fuels from roads, near homes and from forested areas,” Ozarski said. “Beetle-kill trees have contributed to fuels, and there are a lot of fallen trees out there.”

The Colorado Bark Beetle Cooperative is a collaborative program that addresses the environmental, social and economic impacts of bark beetles on high-altitude forests. The committee is composed of federal, state and local government representatives, utility and water providers and conservation and public-interest groups.

Ozarski, formerly the executive director at Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, highlighted four bills affecting Colorado forests that the senator has been championing, including the Farm Bill forestry provisions.

The bipartisan bill is a “must pass” issue, Ozarski said. “This is a West-wide issue that will double the funding for Forest Service from $100 million to $200 million.”

Beetle Cooperative and Udall staffers also discussed other House bills that focus on depleting the risk from insect infestation, soil erosion and catastrophic fire through preventative measures.

“This legislation will ultimately save money, creating jobs and resources that will be viable for Colorado’s national forests,” Ozarski said.

Aiding the cooperative, Udall’s staff said it will help agencies conduct forest-health projects more efficiently.

“There are 20 years of work to be done in removing risks,” Ozarski said. “We are still dealing with watershed and beetle-kill issues from the Hayman fire that happened 10 years ago – we have a lot to think about after this fire season.”

The legislation aims to streamline the process of completing projects toward overall wildlife and environmental health and save entities money when facing fire, beetle-kill, watershed and drought issues in Colorado’s national forests. The Beetle Cooperative approved an educational program to identify the best practices and accurate science related to fire behavior.

“The key in reducing and eliminating home ignitability is by thinning vegetative fuels within 100 feet of structures and moving other flammable materials like wood piles and accumulated pine needles well away from homes,” said Sloan Shoemaker, Beetle Cooperative committee chair.

The educational program will distribute materials locally to inform residents of the dangers of fallen trees and fuel build-up.