I’ve written a little bit about the pine beetle kill problem facing Colorado and the region. Rep. Mark Udall’s (D,CO-02) bills (H.R. 5216 & H.R. 5218) haven’t been acted upon yet in the House. As has been demonstrated before, Gov. Bill Ritter has an honest interest in what happens in his state. With respect to the beetle problem, Ritter created a Forest Health Council last week.
From his press release:
“Many people have been working on this issue for years,” Gov. Ritter added. “The time has come for a unified, coordinated and aggressive action plan that enlists all stakeholders as collaborative partners in this fight. The time has come for state government to lead that effort. The Colorado Forest Health Advisory Council will bring together local, state, federal and private interests to identify and implement short-term actions and long-term forest health strategies.”
Short-term plans include:
Implementation of priorities identified in Community Wildfire Protection Plans;
Methods to encourage establishment of Forest Improvement Districts;
Coordinated expansion of economic incentives to reduce forest treatment costs;
Implementation of landscape-scale stewardship projects; and
Continuation of the Community Forest Restoration Grant Program.
Long-term concerns will also be taken into account. I think this is probably a good thing. As Ritter noted, there are plenty of projects and plans now. What this Council is designed to do is assist in larger-scale planning and implementation. Best practices should be shared between agencies and municipalities. The Council will report to the Legislature and Governor annually.
1.5 million acres have been affected in the past decade by this problem, 500,000 of them last year alone. To the best of my knowledge, the mountains haven’t experienced the kind of deep freeze this winter necessary to kill the eggs/larvae in the trees. Thus, this year could see another large-scale case of destruction. I hope Ritter’s plan is a step in the right direction.