More money sought for dying Colorado forests |

More money sought for dying Colorado forests

Ashley Dickson
Summit County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Eric Drummond/Summit DailySen. Dan Gibbs and Rep. Christine Scanlan discuss their strategy to deal with the mountain pine beetle epidemic at the Frisco Nordic Center Sunday.

FRISCO, Colorado ” The region’s officials are calling for greater statewide involvement in the pine beetle infestation problem, and the growing media attention is now narrowing in on the High Country.

Four different television networks were in attendance on Sunday at the Frisco Nordic Center as Sen. Dan Gibbs and Rep. Christine Scanlan, both Democrats,s announced a new bill that will focus on combating the growing devastation caused by the pine beetle.

The new bill, entitled “The Colorado Forest Restoration Act of 2008,” will continue to seek out funding for work to protect communities from fires and other threats caused by the spread of the insect.

Last year, Gibbs secured $1 million in grant money through the Colorado Forest Restoration Act to support projects that protect rivers that supply communities with water. It was the first-ever state funds dedicated to a pine beetle-related issue.

“We are looking to continue with the efforts started by Sen. Gibbs to come up with a more comprehensive long-term strategy,” said Rep. Scanlan, Eagle County’s state representative. “We need to make this issue a priority for the local, state and federal governments.”

The U.S. Forest Service recently reported that pine beetle infestation grew at an “unprecedented rate” in Colorado last year, affecting 500,000 additional acres. The dead and dying trees increase the risk of fires that could cause run-off that pollutes rivers and reservoirs.

“The beetle itself has won the war but there is a lot we can do to help protect against fire, water safety …” Gibbs said. “There are a lot of communities that would love the opportunity to receive some grant money to help fight the problem locally.”

In addition to the added fire risk, Gibbs said the pine beetle infestation is beginning to have an impact on tourism in the region. There are now 1.5 million acres of dead or dying lodgepole pines, and the completely brown forests do little to entice visitors to the mountains.

“At this point we need a long-term vision on how to rebuild a more diverse forest for our future generations,” Rep. Scanlan said. “A new growth cycle will continue but we must find a way to manage the current situation.”

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