An article in the Denver Post a couple weeks back continued the story about the damage that pine beetles continue to do to our lodgepole forests. 500,000 acres were affected last year, bringing the total number up to 1.5 million acres. In my travels through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains last year, I noticed entire mountainsides have now been devastated by this phenomenon. Experts anticipated that our forests would soon look similar to Yellowstone Park after the 1988 fire season. That kind of damage is going to take hundreds of years to recover from.
Some more recent news on this subject: Two bills were introduced by Rep. Mark Udall (D, CO-02) to do something about the situation.
H.R. 5216 would amend the newly-enacted energy legislation to allow more trees to be removed from National Forests to qualify for incentives to use “renewable biomass” to generate energy.
H.R. 5218 focuses on additional steps to help Colorado communities act to reduct potential damage from wildfires. This includes setting up responsible personnel and procedures, grants for responsible development and grants for establishing fire-hazard assessment maps.
I’m not sure how I feel about the first bill. Something needs to be done with the dead trees – catastrophic fires is not the best solution. But is using them for renewable biomass the thing to do? I’m not sure and will look into it some more. The second bill seems like a good idea. I’m curious how it’s all going to be funded, as well. There are a lot of competing interests for a shrinking pie. I don’t want to see the region devastated by fires when the situation could have more easily been mitigated beforehand.