Colorado’s forests are on the Governor’s radar. The following is a press release from the Governor’s office:
Gov. Bill Ritter and a group of bipartisan lawmakers today announced the “Healthy Forests/Vibrant Communities Act of 2009,” a comprehensive legislative proposal that would protect Colorado’s prized forestlands, assist local communities and stimulate economic activity.
“Colorado is home to nearly 23 million acres of forests – forests that are rich with diverse wildlife, clean water and unbelievable scenery,” Gov. Ritter said. “These forests also are a major part of Colorado’s economic engine. They drive our recreation and tourism industries, and can produce valuable materials for the timber, construction and renewable energy markets.
“But our forests are at grave risk,” Gov. Ritter said. “They are at risk from pine beetle and other insect epidemics. They are at risk from drought, climate change, wildfire and development. And these risks threaten not just our forests, but also Colorado’s communities, economies, air quality, water supplies and wildlife.”
The proposed Healthy Forests/Vibrant Communities Act, to be introduced for consideration in the upcoming 2009 legislative session, will help mountain and Front Range communities plan for forest health management activities, provide funds to reduce wildfire risk, protect watersheds, water and power infrastructure, and encourage business opportunities for wood-products entrepreneurs.
The Act would include multiple pieces of legislation, providing:
- Resources and technical support to ensure that local communities can adequately assess wildfire risks and create effective response plans.
- Additional support to reduce imminent threats through thinning projects focused on protecting lives, homes and community investments such as reservoirs, power lines and other infrastructure.
- Increased focus on long-term restoration projects in community watersheds to protect public water supplies and create high-quality wildlife habitat.
- A revolving loan fund to support businesses and create jobs by finding new ways to market timber and other wood products generated by community protection efforts.
The Act would build on legislation that Gov. Ritter signed into law the past two years. It also would incorporate ideas from the Forest Health Advisory Council that Gov. Ritter established earlier this year and from an interim legislative committee that met this past summer and was co-chaired by state Rep. Christine Scanlan and Sen. Dan Gibbs.
The Act would be funded with $5.5 million in FY09-10 with the Severance Tax Operational Account, which derives its revenues from the tax that oil and gas companies pay to “sever” or extract energy resources in Colorado.
It is a relief to see responsible adults that understand and appreciate science and reality are in charge of Colorado’s government. Officials not blinded by ideology or focused on divisive social issues can and do get things done that are in the best interest of those they govern.
Speaking of reality: these acts and monies are not and will not be enough to adequately deal with the threats our forests face. It’s better than nothing, but millions of acres of land are affected and this simply won’t get the entire job done. That won’t change for decades to come either. A steady, concerted effort will need to be exerted every year until the threats are reduced to more reasonable levels. That includes redutions in greenhouse gas emissions on local, state, national and global scales.