Monday, September 8, 2008

Scanlan to DC to Talk Bark Beetles

West Slope Rep. Christine Scanlan (D-Summit County) is headed to the nation's capital to argue for more money to help Colorado fight the bark beetle epidemic that is killing large numbers of coniferous trees in the state's high elevation forests.

There is growing evidence that the bark beetle problem could spread across the west if not effectively addressed. Some experts have said that dead tree stands pose a threat of devastating wildfire and create hazards sufficient to jeopardize the region’s vital infrastructure.

“We’ve worked very hard the last two years to educate the public about the bark beetle scourge and to address the problem as best we can with our limited resources,” Scanlan said at a press conference in Keystone on Sunday. “We’ve been as creative as possible. But at some point duct tape just isn’t enough. Congress needs to supply the hammer and nails.”

Scanlan, who vice-chairs the state interim committee on wildfires, will be meeting with members of Congress and the U.S. Forest service next week in support of a request for additional resources to mitigate the bark beetle emergency.

Scanlan will join Rick Cables, Chief Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region, and Jeff Jahnke, the Colorado State Forester and Director of the Colorado State Forest Service in Washington.

At the request of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, Cables compiled an estimate detailing the funding needed to address the bark beetle emergency more aggressively. He estimates millions of dollars are needed to mitigate the threat to human life, property and to protect vital infrastructure and resources, including the power grid and various watersheds. Additional resources will be applied to treating affected areas by quarantining and removing diseased and dead trees as quickly as possible.

The mountain pine beetle infestation, which is expected to last for another 3 to 5 years, is already having a devastating impact: 1.5 million acres are already affected. 38 recreation sites remained closed this summer because of the infestation and 3,500 miles of roads and additional 950 miles of trails are under threat of closure.

During the previous two years, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have worked to pass a variety of measures expanding mitigation and protecting Colorado’s watersheds and infrastructure through quarantine and deforestation efforts. The legislature has also created incentives to encourage industry to take advantage of the additional volume created by the epidemic.

The pine beetle epidemic is expected to kill nearly all the lodgepole pine covering 2.2 million acres in the region. The infestation of the insects, which are not dying in winter because temperatures in recent years are not as cold as they have historically been, has moved to lower elevations in the past year and now threatens Colorado’s ponderosa pine forests.