Calls for Removing Beetle-Kill Trees Intensify

July 10, 2012
By

The GOP proposal would allow states to play a more active role in reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire in high-risk areas

DENVER–Colorado’s four Republican congressmen reacted Monday to this year’s devastating wildfire season by introducing a bill to give state and local land managers more control over forest management and wildfire prevention.

Called the Healthy Forest Management Act of 2012, the legislation “increases state control over forest management decisions in high-risk areas” on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management properties, according to a press release.

“By allowing states to play a larger role in addressing this emergency, we can more proactively manage our forests, prevent future destruction from wildfires, and promote a healthy natural environment,” said Congressman Scott Tipton, the bill’s primary sponsor.

The effort comes in the aftermath of the High Park and Waldo Canyon wildfires, described as the two most destructive fires in Colorado history. Those wildfires, along with more a dozen others that have hit the state since March, have been attributed in part to the unhealthy condition of the state’s forests, which have been ravaged by the 15-year-old bark-beetle epidemic.

The bill, which followed a congressional hearing on forest management in May, is cosponsored by Congressmen Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner and Doug Lamborn.

“The damage caused by the recent wildfires in Colorado was no doubt magnified by the beetle-kill epidemic, which provided plenty of fuel for the flames,” said Gardner in a statement supporting the bill. “In order to move forward, it is essential that we better manage the health of our forests.”

The bill allows the governor to instigate fuel-reduction projects in designated “high-risk areas,” even if they fall on federal lands, which make up about 35% of the state. The governor must first consult with the relevant county governments and any affected Indian tribes.

Any proposed projects would be submitted for review Interior or Agriculture secretaries, who would have 60 days to implement the project.

“This bill replaces outdated forest management regulations with smarter, more effective tools to ensure the public’s safety,” said Lamborn. “This bill would give those who live in or near our national forests a greater voice in those plans.”

Calls for culling the state’s tree-choked forests have gained urgency in the aftermath of this year’s wildfire destruction. Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall recently sponsored an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill to double the funding for the removal of beetle-kill trees.

On Monday, Gov. John Hickenlooper urged the House Agriculture Committee to pass the amended Farm Bill, which includes provisions to encourage commercial logging on beetle-kill forests and allow state foresters to reduce fuels on federal lands.

“[W]e strongly encourage that these proposals remain in the bill, survive any conference committee and are ultimately passed by the full Congress,” said Hickenlooper in a statement.

Those efforts are bound to run into resistance from environmental groups, which have fought tree-thinning and logging projects on public lands for decades, insisting that reducing fuel loads in the backwoods does nothing to reduce fire danger.

Niel Lawrence, forestry project director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, described the Tipton bill as “a not-very-subtle effort to promote logging that won’t save homes, stop bugs or make the forests healthier.”

“It’s a blank check to promote logging across a vast majority of the landscape that will do more harm than good,” said Lawrence.

At the same time, Lawrence acknowledged that the calls for thinning the forests would be tough to counter in the post-wildfire climate.

“It’s difficult to look at the extent of the dead trees and fires if you’re a politician and not say, ‘I’ve got to do something,’” said Lawrence. “But the science says you don’t stop bug epidemics with a chainsaw.”

Anticipating challenges from environmental groups, the bill includes provisions for an expedited appeals process. The legislation would also fast-track projects by suspending the federal requirement for an environmental-impact statement for projects within 500 feet of buildings, power lines or campgrounds.

“This summer has been a wake-up call for Members of Congress,” said Coffman. “[I]t has become clear that Western communities need as many forest management tools as we can give in order to mitigate the risk of out-of-control wildfires.”

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

3 Responses to Calls for Removing Beetle-Kill Trees Intensify

  1. Concerned
    July 21, 2012 at 10:29 am

    The Four Members of Congress need to be congratulated for fighting to remove these beetle damaged trees. We are sitting on a time bomb that is ticking.
    Insurance companies are treating Colorado Springs homeowners shabbily. AllState is giving out Teddy Bears instead of checks to allow people to rebuild. I found United Policy Holders a great non profit 501 (c)(3) organization formed by people who lost their homes in the Oakland Hills fire. The United Policy website has great tips –http://www.uphelp.org/

  2. Thomas Leavins
    August 15, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    AGENDAS AND HYPOCRISIS IN CONGRESS
    Epa is a good start with healthy forest. EPA WIL JUMP AND SCREAM ABOUT CLEAN AIR , WATER, Just to take two, a milligram of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A milligram of prevention does not have the big show , I am bringing the money home. The tanker plane dumping retardant into our streams is the big show. The chared ashes is the big show, EPA we will keep that clean. Erosion do not cut the trees do not clean up the forest, EPA we will allow it to burn and create worse erosion. When the good and HONORABLE senators from down stream , Colorado River wanting clean water. How will they vote on healthy forest.

    I am so glad someone sees this problem, Removing the HAZARDOUS FUEL yes I like that name better than biofuel. It gives a better relevance to the real problem. By removing the trees in a manner that leaves the healthy tree could be a plus for the EPA. If they listen instead of dictating.
    On 3/26/2003 with two presidential mandates and congressional studies stating the Hazardous fuel will be removed James E Hubbard showed his frustration of this problem on page 6 of his letter

    Today’s public is asking why we are experiencing such extreme fire behavior on such a large
    scale threatening life and property. They believe that something should be done and, increasingly, the
    something is to manage the forest. Beyond the “smoke” recognition, comes the “mirrors.” What to do,
    where to do it and how management treatments are implemented continues to fuel debate and
    controversy.

    When I look at the Forestry truck and see LAW ENFORCEMENT on the front fender I wonder who is doing forest management.

  3. Thomas Leavins
    August 15, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    without THE reduction of hazardous fuel the insurance companies will do Colorado the same as they did in Florida and Hurricane, damage they will leave, the insurance will be so high nobody can afford it.

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