$22M sought for state’s beetle battle | VailDaily.com

$22M sought for state’s beetle battle

Nicole Formosa
Vail, CO Colorado

WASHINGTON ” The entire Colorado legislative delegation introduced a federal bark beetle bill on Tuesday that would commit up to $22 million to help the U.S. 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 allow for the creation of so-called “Healthy Forest Partnership Zones” where local government and private companies could cooperate on forest thinning projects.

It also 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.

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 timber companies and other businesses. The bill would also provide grants for fallen trees to be reused as biomass in energy production.

“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.”

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