Udall introduces beetle relief bill | VailDaily.com

Udall introduces beetle relief bill

Bob Berwyn
** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS JULY 23-24 ** A mountain pine beetle is seen on the tip of forester Cal Wettstein's knife during the examination of trees in the White River National Forest near Vail, Colo., on July 5, 2005. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Draft legislation proposed by Democratic congressmen Mark Udall and John Salazar aims to cut red tape that complicates forest-thinning efforts and give incentives to private industry to get involved in forest health projects. Udall and Salazar are seeking input on the draft bill through Nov. 17.

Specifically, the measure would:• Allow bark beetle projects and projects under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act to move forward under streamlined procedures, and exempt the most urgent ones to from normal environmental review;• Amend the Healthy Forests Restoration Act to allow governors to request that the Forest Service declare “emergency areas” in order to conduct forest-thinning projects and community-protection projects under a streamlined environmental review process;• Provide economic incentives and tax exemptions for cutters and haulers who derive income from the removal of beetle-killed trees or other fuel-reduction projects;• Direct the Forest Service to give a preference to anyone seeking a federal grant to convert removed biomass (e.g. beetle-killed trees) into energy to those that secure that biomass under a project to reduce the affects of an insect-infested area;• Direct that $5 million annually for five years (funded by royalties from on-shore oil and gas development) be applied to grants to help communities develop a community wildlife protection plan;• Authorize the Forest Service to redirect existing personnel from other regions to help respond to a beetle emergency in the Rocky Mountain Region.Vail, Colorado

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