Bennet Tours Forest Health, Fire Prevention Efforts in Summit County

Bennet Fought for Provisions in Senate-passed Farm Bill to Combat Bark Beetle Epidemic

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today visited the Wildernest neighborhood and toured forest areas in Summit County, where efforts to improve forest health and mitigate the bark beetle epidemic are underway. Forests in Summit County have been some of the hardest hit by the beetle crisis. Bennet was joined by Summit County Commissioner Karn Steigelmeier, officials from the Lake Dillon Fire Protection District, the Forest Health Task Force, the Colorado Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

“This work in Summit County is important to preventing catastrophic wildfires over the long term,” Bennet said. “It is critical that we utilize the resources available to keep our forests healthy and our local communities safe. It has already been a devastating fire season in Colorado, and we must redouble our efforts to maintain healthy forests and reduce the risk of wildfires.”

Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, fought for the reauthorization of stewardship contracting in the committee’s initial draft of the 2012 Farm Bill. Stewardship contracting authority is a critical tool for the Forest Service to implement projects that restore and maintain healthy forest ecosystems, and provide business opportunities and local employment. Colorado is currently among the states with the more stewardship contracts underway, with 34 projects totaling almost 12,000 acres.

Bennet also cosponsored an amendment offered by Senator Mark Udall to increase funding for bark beetle mitigation. The amendment encourages public-private partnerships and builds upon a multi-year effort to move legislation and provide additional resources to address the ongoing bark beetle epidemic. The amendment was adopted with bipartisan support into the final Farm Bill passed by the Senate.

A recent aerial forest survey of Colorado showed that the mountain pine beetle has affected 3.3 million acres statewide. Bark beetles are responsible for killing more than 41.7 million acres of trees throughout the western United States, including 21.7 million acres of trees in the Intermountain West alone.  More than 17 million of these acres in the Intermountain West are on U.S. Forest Service land.