Embarrassing GOP Timber Bill Euthanized

As a reminder, the AP reported in January:

House Speaker Frank McNulty highlighted the plight of a Montrose business owner during a speech to start this year’s legislative session, saying “unnecessary government restrictions” prohibit the use of the beetle-kill timber and that a GOP bill would tackle the problem.

There’s only one problem: The red tape Republicans say blocks the sale of beetle-kill timber doesn’t exist, according to the Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Counties Inc.

The building-code confusion is calling into question the validity of one of the centerpieces of the Republicans’ job package this year and underscores what happens when best intentions meet reality at the Legislature…

Fast-forward to today and this release from Colorado House Democrats:

HB12-1004, sponsored by Rep. Laura Bradford (R-Grand Junction), “requires county and municipal building codes to allow the use of lumber milled from lodgepole pine and Engelmann spruce trees having a grade of ‘stud’ or better as building framing material.”

But as the name implies, “stud” grade lumber is already in general use for studs and other framing applications. So the Bradford bill changes nothing, encourages no one to use beetle-killed timber. Yet the bill obtained the blessing of the House Republican leadership, which put it on its phantom list of “jobs” bills.

This much-ballyhooed bill was killed this morning – at the sponsor’s request — in the House Agriculture Committee.

We noted in January that McNulty asserted this bill “would let a Colorado sawmill add 80 jobs”–bizarrely specific given that the bill doesn’t, as it turns out, actually do anything!

McNulty won’t take the fall, but the principle holds: making stuff up is a bad idea.

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32 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ArapaGOPArapaGOP says:

    I love how Laura Bradford is her own worst enemy, except when she can be used against Frank McNulty. Is this the only evidence that she can’t be trusted? You’re totally inconsistent.

  2. Gilpin Guy says:

    with the beetle epidemic?  Wouldn’t keeping our forests alive generate some tourist and resource protection jobs?

    • Car 31 says:

      What can this august body do that hasn’t been done?

      Seriously.

      More tax credits on the wood? Subsidize the one failing mill in Colorado? Subsidize transportation costs for logging? Ease environmental restrictions on state lands? Should we pass a law saying the trees should stay alive?

      You talk as if you know the answers.

      Do tell.

       

      • Gilpin Guy says:

        and have a vested interest in living forests.  I keep my old photos in plastic tubes so I can put them in the car on a moments notice if a reverse 911 call comes in.

        You also have a vested interest in living forests every time you drink a glass of water or go skiing.  Living forests are critical watersheds that are important to our existence.

        The old paradigm that wood is only good for building materials is archaic and out of date.  The housing industry isn’t coming back to pre-recession levels for a long time.  Too many houses already sit empty.

        There is a five county consortium called Peak to Peak Wood, http://www.peaktopeakwood.org that is trying to find new uses for wood products but it is tough to market for our skinny trees.  They tried selling bedding to front range turkey growers but the turkey processing plant in Longmont closed.  They have marketed the skinny lodge pole pines as corral poles but not too many corrals in the big city.

        Trees do have inherent BTU potential so one possibility is to cultivate the forests as a renewable fuel source.  Experiments are being conducted at CSU to process the woody pulp as a replacement to corn for ethanol.  What if our legislators spent some time proposing to the big oil companies to invest in these possibilities?  You would bring good research jobs to Fort Collins.

        You could also use it in wood pellets or in biomass furnaces.  Gilpin County is using a biomass furnace to heat their new Road & Bridge building.  The county commissioners are now talking about building a biomass furnace between three county buildings and heating all of them from this one source.  It catalytic converters for these furnaces are quite sophisticated and the smoke is minimal.  There would be jobs to make pellets or install biomass furnaces.

        The problem with wood pellets is weak demand.  You have plenty of product but no market.  What if our august body at the state house offered a tax credit for anyone who converts their house from propane or gas to pellets?  A good pellet stove that heats the whole house is about $2,000 so give them a tax credit of $500.  How about giving builders an incentive for installing pellet stove for new homes.

        All fuel loads in our forests are more than all our “for profit” enterprises can handle but a living forest is going to be money in the bank down the road both in water and in fuel.  There are jobs to be done thinning our forests and creating defensible spaces around communities.  How about creating some jobs for unemployed youth by having them work on cutting crews to reduce this fuel load buildup.  We magically have money to engage in fire suppression activities but we are repeatedly told that we don’t have any money to reduce the potential of a catastrophic wildfire.  When you watch the state burn this summer, you might ask yourself if a small amount of prevention would have lessened the ruin.  With the possibility that climate change might occur in our lifetimes, there is no guarantee that forest won’t come back like before a fire.  Look at Haiti to see what happens when deforestation becomes permanent.

        My point is that Republicans only see the forest as a place to get building materials.  In a era where the housing industry is down for the count, they have no idea how to use the wood to create new or innovative markets.  It is dinosaur group think to think that wood can only become lumber.

        So maybe you can tell me what big ideas you have for generating jobs with living forests?

        • Gilpin Guy says:

          s/b plastic tubs

        • Car 31 says:

          I figured you live in the red zone since Gilpin county is pretty much covered by it. So you’re part of the problem too! I mean, not you of course. Just those other folks who haven’t been living in the WUI for years, you know, those ‘others’.

          Since you’re an expert living in the red zone, you know as well as I do that over the last five-ten years the legislature had tried repeatedly to address forest health. That was the reason I asked your opinion, not because I really wanted to hear you rant, but because you’re taking an opportunity to take a dig at an august  body that for years has done what it can (and taking a dig because it is an R sponsor of a bill).

          You speak of pellets, want to know one of the biggest groups that is making it very difficult to establish a market for this? Environmentalist groups. Tax credits are next to worthless if there isn’t a steady supply of wood and enviros consistently have stymied efforts to increase harvesting to promote forest thinning.  

          By no means are they the only ones – the federal definitions of biomass are convoluted at best, the forest service is awash in beuracracy to where trees can’t be harvested without 50 studies and TPS reports, and politics aside, it is very very hard to convince people to convert their heating system to something people used in the 1800’s.

          Anyway, I just wanted to speak up and defend the fine folks under the dome and call bullshit on your original post.

          But before I get back to work, since you live in the red zone, how about paying $1000 more a year on your fire insurance, or to a state fund, so that when firefighters are defending your house from the fire that will occur, this august body actually has some money to pay for that protection? Try and rally your fellow neighbors in the WUI around that.  

          • sxp151 says:

            But you come from a weird family if your dad is also your uncle. No wonder I occasionally disagree with your opinions!

            http://www.coloradopols.com/di

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            I do support the formation of Forest Improvement Districts and taxing local communities for fire mitigation projects.  I support increases in funding for volunteer fire departments.

            I suppose you are also going to be harsh on all those folks who live out on the plains who are in the tornado alleys.  Maybe they should all move to the coasts so they aren’t always rebuilding flattened houses.  Oh wait, you can’t go to California because of the earthquakes.  Maybe Californians should move to the mountains instead of living in an earthquake zone.  Oh wait.

            This was a phony bill that didn’t meet the test of helping deal with our forest or employment problems.  It was a fraud.  You bitching about the good old Republican politicians just not being able to “create jobs” because of over regulation is just as much bullshit as this bill was.

            I’ve been property owner in Gilpin for the last 31 years.  I am a active proponent of sustainable forests with key defensible space development so that fire management means living forests.  When was the last time you thought about the forests or spent any time in them?  Fuck you and your value judgement that I have to live on top of you because living in some high density area that is ridden with crime is better than living in a forest that is vulnerable to wildfires.  You’re going to be wishing we took better care of the forests when you’re dying of thirst in your little city dwelling.

            • Car 31 says:

              Always helpful when that defensiveness comes raging out at others.

              First, of course you pay more for insurance, you live in a huge, friggin’ fire pit.

              My point is if you want to mitigate the risks to your property, one choice would be to pay a dedicated fee/tax that would help with forest mitigation projects in the WUI areas.

              A ‘living forest’ conversation is really pretty, but beside the fact when all the trees around you are dead.

              You and I agree, let’s figure out a way to manage the resources available and protect property within the scope of funding we have.

              Beyond that, we’re just one good lightening strike away from the biggest marshmallow toast you’ve ever seen, and your shitty attitude ain’t gonna change that.

              • Gilpin Guy says:

                I totally agree with you that local property owners in the WUI should be paying a dedicated tax for fire mitigation and defensible space projects.  It just makes so much sense to me to be personally accountable and pay for your protection.

                Joan FitzGerald got the Forest Improvement District financing changed in 2007 so that you could tax on property besides sales.  Every property owner in the district contributes and projects are rotated around so that every year a subdivision gets mitigation work done.  You can also use the money to pay for foresters to come out and mark trees so that private property owners can do the mitigation work along roads that will act as egress routes out of a subdivision during an evacuation.

                Right now I pay $15 a month for my fire protection (300k * 7.96% * 842 mills).  That is half of what I pay for my cell phone data program.  My house insurance went up by $400 last year. The thing is, the increase in my house insurance doesn’t make me any safer.  I could up my monthly fire protection bill to $50 a month and it would be the same cost with better fire protection by multiple factors.

                As far as dead forests, I have to disagree.  Gilpin is in great shape with a decline in beetle populations over the last three years.  Instead of an increase in infection rates of 10-15%, we’ve been under 2% and holding steady.  If you go off trail in Golden Gate State Park, you can find hot spots from 2008 that are stone cold.  Even in Summit and Grand counties which were hardest hit, you can see the new forest is taking hold.  The big risk is a mega-inferno which will sterilize the ground of seeds, incinerate the pine cones and turn the new little guys that are just starting to grow into ash.  Most of the dead beetle trees have lost their needles so they are empty shells that don’t have the ignition capability of a green tree with lots of sap.  They are less of a fire threat now than a couple of years ago.

                The forests aren’t dead but they could use some TLC.

                • Car 31 says:

                  I love FitzGerald and helped her pass that bill. Wish she was your Rep, but that’s another story.

                  If I’m hearing you right, what we need in Colorado is an effective way of financing fire emergencies that doesn’t primarily rely on fighting fires. Luckily we have many groups organizing on a local level to leverage funding, map and prioritize watershed protections, and continue advocating for more money. The way we fund forest health in this state is insane.

                  Shit. The way we fund most things in this state is insane.

                  Anyway – no hard feelings Gilpin. Enjoy.  

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            is stymied by “enviros and dirty nasty tree huggers”.  It is a ridiculous claim that the pellet industry is constrained by a lack of supplies.  Suppy isn’t the problem.  There is no demand.  It costs a lot to change out a wood stove for a pellet stove.  People need an incentive to convert to the next generation of heating systems.  Colorado could be the Saudi Arabia of pellets and export them to Omaha, Wichita and Sioux Falls.  If you have more pellet stoves in use the supply side will be there.  The analogy is people ditching hummers for more efficient electric cars.  It costs a lot to switch and technology needs to improve but the long term consequences will be worth it.

            • Car 31 says:

              I don’t know what you’re saying there, but the fact is, in order to

              be the Saudi Arabia of pellets and export them to Omaha, Wichita and Sioux Falls

              there needs to be a steady supply of wood to make those pellets.

              Most of that wood comes off of federal lands.

              Those federal lands are governed by complex environmental laws, such as NEPA. We’ve tried to carve out categorical exclusions for years to allow for easier access to already approved forest treatment projects and those federal bills/amendments have died, mainly due to environmentalist pressures.

              It is a fact that environmentalists, while claiming to protect the forest from ‘over harvesting’, have slowed market development for industries such as pellets.

              There is a balance to be had, and if you and I sat down at a table, we’d be able to find it. It’s discovering the money and the politicial will, and keeping idiots like McNulty out of equation, that is the hard part.

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            It was sponsored by Senator Jeanne Nicholson (D-SD16) and will create jobs and improve forest health for the next five years.  Hickenlooper signed this measure on 3/24/2012.  It is still weak with only a 1.5 million yearly budget but something will get done.  You’ll spend that much on one fire when you add up the tab for all the private contractors and their bulldozers.

            HD12-1032

            • Car 31 says:

              and this get’s back to your original comment I called bullshit on – the legislature passed that bill (which continued funding from four years ago).

              This ‘august body’ you quickly demean with your comment, found the funding and political will to pass this and many other bills concerning forest health.

              The point you chose to ignore was, McNulty thought he could use forest health to further a ‘jobs creation agenda’ and it backfired in his face. That’s dumbass McNulty, not the legislature.

        • ajb says:

          You live in a mature, dying forest. Now the beetles have moved in and lots of trees are dead or dying. Nature’s way of taking care of that is fire. But, there are too many people up there, so nature can’t be allowed to run its course.

          As you state, there’s not a lot of economic value in those dead trees. I don’t think that wood pellets are the answer. I’d rather that me and my neighbors down here in the Front Range burn natural gas. It’s a helluva lot cleaner. Not to mention the fact that your contribution to climate change is higher if you’re burning pellets (which exacerbates the beetle problem).

          We can talk about the value of a living forest, but it’s a bit late for that. Large chunks of forest are dying. The problem is so vast that there’s really nothing we can do to prevent it. We can’t even really mitigate its effects. And when a fire gets going on a hot, dry, windy day, there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            Mechanical thinning and reforestation can be an alternative to wildfires in areas that have human habitation.

            The “let it burn” assholes forget that our forests have been neglected while we have fought wars and bailed out bankers so “normal” fires are no longer possible because of the fuel load buildups.  You can’t go back to pre-human conditions.  You can limit future development in remote areas or choose not to defend them but the existing homes were zoned and built according to the legal laws and statutes of the various government jurisdictions.

            Fire management is a science that can model wind patterns and fuel loads and determine where the best bang for the buck is for defensible space.  Strategic thinning is the basis for Community Wildfire Protection Programs.  These programs in conjunction with the state and national forest services are intended to create a checkerboard of thinned areas in key locations so that there are holes in the canopy and the fire is hindered rather than expanded.  The core objective is to slow up the fire so people have a chance to evacuate and channel the fire so it doesn’t burn up the whole area.  Wildfires aren’t scorched earth affairs where every tree is burned to the ground.  The goal of fire management is not to prevent wildfires but control them so this valuable resource and human lives are protected for sustainable futures.

            • ajb says:

              I’ve considered it. Several friends live up off Magnolia and Sugarloaf. But that’s a personal decision made with your eyes wide open. Why, as a society, should we protect the assets of a self-selected group of people who want to live in an area prone to catastrophic wildfire? Why should fire fighters risk their lives to do so?

              The people who live in the mountains probably cannot afford to bear the cost of wild fire mitigation. And, IIRC, a ballot measure recently put before Boulder County mountain dwellers failed. I live in the city. My taxes pay the fire dept to fight fires. You live (presumably) in Gilpin County. The cost of fighting one big fire would probably bankrupt the county. The cost of mitigation would probably double (or more) your property taxes.

              As for the “let-it-burn assholes”, they’re only assholes by degree. You and I both know that nothing is going to slow a big nasty fire like Fourmile. It would be suicidal to stand in its way. Fires that big blow right through thinned areas, and don’t stop until the wind dies or shifts direction, or it starts raining. When you see that, it seems pointless to spend all this effort and money to protect the assets of the few that choose to live there.

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            of course they can be improved but fossil fuels are finite.  They will be depleted to zero.  Trees are renewable.  Would you rather continue subsidizing the oil and gas industry or invest in better renewable fuel standards?

            • ajb says:

              There are, of course, trade-offs for all energy sources, but I’d rather do more about climate change than less. When you chop down trees for fuel, you’re converting them into CO2. Yes, I know that new trees will grow, but it takes a while, and in the meantime, you’ve increased surface warming (less evapotranspiration, more black carbon deposition).

              As far as subsidizing oil and gas, it’s not an either-or.  

              • Gilpin Guy says:

                is going to have a much bigger carbon footprint.  The one in Arizona a couple of years ago could be seen from space.  It spews tons of smoke, ash and carbon into the atmosphere exacerbating the problem.

                Solar and wind might be better renewable sources but you still have to do something with your forests to maintain your watersheds if nothing else.  Trees decaying on the ground also give off CO2.  Historically forests have been carbon sinks because the living tress are absorbing carbon but when they die they start releasing it into the atmosphere as they decay.  What if you develop your technology so that the wood can be used for heating with burning that is so efficient that the carbon release is minimal?  Granted not a perfect solution but you take care of your forest fuel load buildup and you have a thousand tiny fires that heat homes with minimal pollution and you buy time to develop something better or you can rely on gigantic fossil fuel facilities to generate the heating and still have to deal with the threat of fuel load buildups in the forest that will wipe out your watersheds.

  3. rathmone says:

    …shouldn’t that be felled? or thinned? or eaten by GOPeetles?

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