Pine beetles bother visiting U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez |

Pine beetles bother visiting U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez

Edward Stoner/Vail DailyU.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-Arvada) talks to John Toliver of the Forest Service on Monday at the upper bench of Donovan Park, where Colorado Department of Corrections inmates were cutting and piling aspen trees as part of a thinning project.

VAIL ” U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez said Monday he’s “frightened” by the devastation of mountain pine beetles in Vail-area forests.

“As the foresters appropriately put it, we’re not in an endemic situation, we’re in an epidemic situation,” said Beauprez, the Republican candidate for Colorado governor this fall.

Beauprez visited Vail Monday to see efforts to combat the beetle infestation, which has killed up to 90 percent of trees in some parts of the forest surrounding the town.

Bill Carlson, environmental health officer for the town of Vail, said he hopes the congressman’s tour can garner more support for the projects.

“It’s great that he’s interested in our problems and he sees its severity,” Carlson said. “Hopefully, he can give us some support on his end, either as a congressman or a future governor.”

Under the five-year Vail Valley Forest Health Plan, starting this summer trees will be cut and fires set between Vail and near Wildridge in efforts to halt the spread of the beetles.

Congress, meanwhile, is paying more attention to the problem, Beauprez said.

“We’re trying to put some kind of a unified effort together,” Beauprez said. “Hopefully we can get that done real soon. We’ve got to deal with the problem. … It certainly has crossed all the boundaries of all political lines and people are saying, ‘We’ve got to get in this fight.'”

Beauprez, who represents parts of Adams, Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, introduced a bill in July that seeks to give federal officials more authority in trying to reduce flammable brush and dead wood in forests. The bill currently languishes in a House subcommittee, he said.

“I did introduce my own bill and, to be honest, I’m frustrated that we haven’t been able to get more attention in all of Congress to get it done,” Beauprez said. “Hopefully we can get a sense of urgency when we get back.”

Beauprez also offered an amendment in May that sought to reduce the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts by $30 million and redirect the money to the wildfire budget for the Forest Service. That proposal was shot down.

Beauprez hasn’t been too popular with some environmental advocates during his tenure as a congressman. For 2004, the League of Conservation Voters gave him a 0 percent score on its National Environmental Scorecard. That number represents the number of pro-environmental votes cast out of the 11 votes scored for the report.

In contrast, Mark Udall, the Democratic congressman who represents Eagle County, was given a 100 percent score by the group.

During Monday’s tour, officials showed Beauprez a parcel of aspen trees above Red Sandstone Creek where thinning and burning will begin later this year.

He was then taken to the upper bench of Donovan Park, where the town of Vail thinned an aspen stand last year. About 20 inmates from the Colorado Department of Corrections were finishing up work cutting and piling trees while Beauprez toured the area. The town, which has pledged $1.25 million for the plan, has used the cheap labor offered by the prison system.

Later this summer, the town and the Forest Service will use a helicopter to lift felled trees out of another area above Donovan Park.

Vail Resorts cut trees near the gondola this summer and sprayed trees near Game Creek Club, said Vail Mountain Vice President of Mountain Operations Brian McCartney.

“We’ve got all the same concerns that everyone else does,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

Vail, Colorado

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