Pine beetle bill passes Senate committee |

Pine beetle bill passes Senate committee

Nicole Formosa
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER ” A bill that would help communities pay for reforestation projects to repair damage left done by the mountain pine beetle passed its first hurdle in the state Senate on Tuesday.

The bill proposes a pilot forest restoration program whereby local communities with an community wildfire protection plan could qualify for grants to help pay for experimental projects that would reduce the threat of large wildfires and preserve old and large trees.

The state’s share of a project cost would be capped at 60 percent or $1 million. A technical advisory panel would be formed evaluate grant applications.

Three people spoke in favor of the legislation at Tuesday’s hearing, including Shanna Koenig, of Silverthorne-based Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. She pointed out the danger a fire fueled by trees killed by beetles poses to the state’s water supply.

In Dillon or Granby, which both rely on a single source for their water that runs through a forest, “a Hayman-type fire would simply put them out of business,” she said, citing the $7.8 million Denver Water has spent cleaning up Cheeseman Reservoir since the Hayman Fire in 2002, the largest wildfire in state history.

House Bill 1130, which has been approved by the House, is sponsored by Rep. Dan Gibbs, the Silverthorne Democrat who represents Eagle County, and Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald. It passed the Senate Committee on Local Government with a unanimous vote.

Fitz-Gerald called the need for the bill “particularly frightening” based on the beetles’ rapid movement through Grand, Eagle, Jackson, Summit and Routt counties since 2001.

“We have very limited resources to attack this problem, but we’re trying to get from here to there in warp speed before we reach the summer,” Fitz-Gerald said.

” Nicole Formosa

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