Beetle Kill 2009: Federal stimulus could help ease affects of beetle kill epidemic | SkyHiNews.com

Beetle Kill 2009: Federal stimulus could help ease affects of beetle kill epidemic

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

Removing beetle-killed trees has been the focus of Grand County communities and foresters for several years now.

The U.S. Forest Service officials are in a constant balancing act of using what funds they have to make recreational areas safer meanwhile racing to contract out swaths of the forest’s commercial-grade wood before trees reach a point of decay making them no longer marketable.

Prescribed burning is another way the U.S. Forest Service plans to rid spent trees on key acres that are needed for continuous fuel breaks around communities.

Then there is the private sector, with a pellet plant strategically located in Kremmling ready to collect dead lodgepoles. Businesses like this are part of the solution, taking a readily available wood product and ultimately turning it into heat.

It’s these methods and modes that are preparing our communities for positive outcomes in the event of a large-scale wildfire. But no solution is the cure-all.

The U.S. Forest Service reports that 900,000 new acres of infested trees, with about 400,000 of those acres in Colorado, were spotted in the 2008 summer aerial survey for northern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming.

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This beetle epidemic has affected almost 2.5 million acres from the first signs of outbreak in 1996 ” 2 million acres of which are in Colorado.

The state of our forests are reasons U.S. Forest lands in Colorado have been targeted for stimulus recovery.

Three forests in Colorado ” the Arapaho-Roosevelt, Medicine Bow-Routt and Pike-San Isabel National Forests ” are initially receiving $5.6 million for beetle-kill tree removal projects and improvements to recreation sites.

“We’re going to be able to get a whole lot more of hazardous fuel reductions done as a result,” said District Ranger of the Sulphur Ranger District Craig Magwire, in Granby. “The recovery money is going toward projects to protect our communities and our watersheds from potential wildfire. For us in the Valley, it’s a great story.”

Out of a total of $1.15 billion in economic recovery funds given to the U.S. Forest Service, $98 million has already been assigned to 10 percent of the Forest Service projects ready-to-go nationwide, creating an initial 1,500 jobs, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Magwire said the Sulphur Ranger District is making itself a candidate to gain more funding as more comes available.

The remaining bulk of overall Forest stimulus money is predicted to generate 23,500 more jobs when distributed.

With the first round of economic recovery awarded to Colorado, clearing away dead trees is the main thrust.

Forests throughout a five-state Rocky Mountain Region including Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota, submitted projects for consideration of stimulus funds. The USDA and Forest Service are determining how the remaining Recovery funds will be allocated. Under the language of the Act, “the Forest Service will use the money to create as many jobs as possible to support communities and get money flowing through the economy again.”

Stimulus funds were also set aside as tax incentives for energy and businesses ventures making use of renewable resources, as well as available loans for such ventures.

Through energy-related tax incentives, a consumer tax credit of 30 percent is available for energy efficiency improvements to the home, including energy efficient biomass fuel stoves, purchased between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010.

For more information on how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act may strengthen Colorado’s New Energy Economy, visit http://www.colorado.gov/energy.

To learn more about Recovery funds to the U.S. Forest Service, visit http://www.fs.fed.us.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

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