The Colorado Independent
is reporting that Senators Bennet and Udall are leading a bi-partisan effort to get the US Dept of Ag to increase funding for clearing dead trees and other fire mitigation and prevention work.
Incumbent Republican Ken Buck has said nothing.
Buck’s previous comments on Social Security, VA health care services, and other government funded services have demonstrated a preference for private, market based solutions.
I am skeptical about “market based firefighting solutions”, as I suspect the Cranicks are now as well. (And we can all be thankful no person was in their house.)
What would a market solution look like in the case of the bark beetle epidemic in the Rocky Mountain region?
Well, first the good news. There is a market for the dead trees. Denver metro homeowners are paying $200+ per cord for firewood. So it’s possible that an entrepreneur could buy the wood, remove it, cut it, deliver it to Denver homes. Not to other states, however, many of whom have laws against the importation of firewood in an effort to avoid infestations.
But it hasn’t happened yet, despite the bark beetle killing millions of acres of trees. Or if it has, it has not happened quickly enough to be a notably effective fire avoidance technique.
On the down side, we let the bark beetle kill all the lodgepole pines in CO and the region because no private investor emerges to fund an eradication effort. The destabilized hillsides will clog the watersheds with runoff, perhaps slowing the movement of our water to downstream “owners.” At that point the local water managers will be forced to mitigate the damage to the waterways, and local solutions are better funded locally.
And until they get wet, there’s another word for all those dead trees: fuel. If fires are caused by lightning strikes, make it a federal funding priority then. But if (when) fires are started by human events, charge it back to the people involved. This will create a voluntary insurance market for responsible Coloradans.
Bennet and Udall – leading a bipartisan effort to make this a federal priority.
Silent on this specifically and apparently in favor of private market solutions in general.
Udall has always been very involved in addressing forest health issues in Colorado. With that said, the greatest impact to funding for mitigation projects in this state has resulted from two things: 1) Salazar becoming Interior Secretary, and 2) the hard work of organizations forcing local/state/federal agencies to collaborate.
Without Secretary Salazar, Colorado would continue to lose funding to California, Oregon and Washington. Without the collaborations, the Forest Service would still be fighting internal battles with DC and individual forest managers within the state.
A market based solution is a good idea for helping with the beetle kill problems we face. Number one problem with this is, availability of lumber. Even though there are countless board feet available, we have one small mill open in Colorado and it is, ironically, hanging on by a thread. If it closes, our problems will multiply.
Communities have slowly begun to implement pellet heating systems, biomass heating, and a variety of other market based approaches to utilize the beetle kill available.
The markets here are small and the big box lumber sellers (Home Depot and others) don’t buy into the idea that we should sell local lumber instead of importing lumber from other states.
We didn’t let the infestation spread, there wasn’t anything we could do to stop it. Now that it is here, though, Udall continues to raise awareness and fight for funding.
Here’s another big problem – the majority of the population in this state is along the Front Range. Until the beetles begin devouring the trees in Evergreen, Genesee, Boulder, and unincorporated Douglas and Jefferson, the problem remains someone else’s problem.
Interestingly, the beetles are beginning to attack those forests and the impacts will be seen in the next five/ten years. But, in that time there will be an even larger number of people building homes in the forest.
Some solutions =
Increase forest mitigation projects and make it economically feasible to remove the lumber (big problem because of transportation costs associated with moving the lumber to either the mill or the markets).
Increase insurance rates significantly for new homes built within the wildland urban interface.
Have the state mandate that all homeowners within the wildland urban interface comply with mitigation efforts on their property, at a minimum, require Firewise compliance for areas immediately surrounding existing and new structures.
Water users must also shoulder some of the burden (mostly the Front Range users!). The fact that there are dead trees doesn’t necessarily impact the quality or quantity of water, only when there is a fire is the water significantly impacted. Water users need to recognize this and help pay to avoid these impacts.
OK, enough for now. Apologize for the nonpartisan reply.
You all can now go back to the regularly anticipated politico bashing and name calling…
K Salazar was a giant help when he was Senator. Udall, Bennet, Polis, J Salazar, Markey all worked hard. For that matter Allard worked on this as well. Others have had to be dragged along to get their support such as Lamborn.
I hope the obvious gaffe doesn’t detract from the other comments.
Hefley also helped get money for the Pike forest near the end of his tenure.
But you made the point much more succinctly than me – forest health shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Lamborn is a doorstop, although he has signed on to cosponsor previous legislation for Colorado.
I kind of like your factiness. Seriously, thank you.