Granby mayor named to statewide beetle panel |

Granby mayor named to statewide beetle panel

Granby Mayor Ted Wang has been selected to Gov. Bill Ritter’s Colorado Forest Health Advisory Council, a statewide, multi-agency action group that will lead efforts to address the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

For the past four years, Wang has been involved in efforts to mitigate the county’s beetle infestation. He is a member of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and serves on the steering committee for the Colorado Bark Beetle Cooperative. Wang has also flown to Washington, D.C., on a couple occasions to discuss and support a unified bill to aid in the mitigation of the bark beetle infestation.

Other members selected for the Forest Health Advisory Group include state Rep. Al White and state Sen. Dan Gibbs.

“It’s a very distinguished list of people, so I’m honored,” Wang said.

The goal of the council is to bring together local, state, federal and private interests and identify short- and long-term forest health strategies. The 24-member group is composed of city, county, state, federal and private stakeholders and representatives from the woody biomass industry, water suppliers, conservation groups and sportsmen.

“Many healthy-forest efforts are already under way,” Gov. Ritter stated in a press release. “This council will not reinvent the wheel. It will build a better wheel, a faster wheel that maximizes these efforts. This council is not another study group. It is an action group.”

Wang explained the group is instructed to figure out how to maximize the money available for mitigation work and get it “out on the ground as fast as possible.” The group will focus on three pieces: Protection of life and property, protection of key infrastructure such as power lines and phone lines, and protection of watersheds.

“It’s really gratifying we have a governor who recognizes this is an important issue for state. He’s made it very clear it’s not going to be a sit around and talk group. We’re trying to find ways to get things done,” Wang said.

Wang said by being part of the council, he can bring Grand County’s issues to the table “so we don’t get lost in the shuffle.”

Some of the challenges he expects to face include increasing awareness to people on the Front Range about the protection of their water supply, which is endangered by the mountain pine beetle due to the increased possibility of a forest fire.

“The health of our forest and what’s going on is tied completely to (water). There’s no separation in it,” Wang said.

Another challenge is money: There’s simply not enough of it to address all the issues, Wang said. And getting money from federal grant programs can be difficult, he added. With this council, Wang hopes to overcome some of those barriers.

“We are charged with maximizing the work that limited funding can accomplish, and getting the money out to the most critical locations as fast as possible.

Wang knows some have questioned why the mayor of Granby is participating in the mountain pine beetle efforts when “Granby doesn’t have a beetle problem,” he said. But Granby does have beetle infested areas and beetle killed timber, he pointed out. And the problem goes beyond the town.

“The beetles know no map boundaries, and sitting on the sidelines while one’s neighbors are, perhaps, more affected and doing nothing isn’t good leadership.”

Besides, he added, the town’s water supply runs through “thousands of acres of beetle killed forest.”

“We have to protect that vital community asset.”

The first meeting for the council will probably take place in March, Wang said.

“The governor has put together, in my mind, a stellar group of people to address this. He’s got the right people in the room, and I’m very honored to be selected.”

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