An amendment Mark Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet offered to the 2012 Farm Bill to increase funding for bark beetle mitigation passed the Senate today. The amendments, which encourage public-private sector partnerships, build on a multi-year effort to advance legislation and provide additional resources that would strengthen our capabilities to address the ongoing beetle epidemic in Western forests.
"Bark beetles have devastated stands of trees throughout Colorado and the western United States and are even now providing fuel for wildfire," Udall said. "This amendment will help our forest managers remove beetle-killed trees from our forests and reduce the wildfire risk to human life and homes. My amendment also will bolster the ability of sawmills and biomass-energy facilities to use beetle-killed timber to create jobs."
"This amendment will help make Colorado's forests safer and healthier," Bennet said. "It represents a bipartisan effort to respond to the devastation that bark beetles have left behind in Colorado and throughout the West by safely removing dead and dying trees while creating jobs and spurring economic growth and protecting Coloradans."
The bipartisan amendment Udall offered today with Bennet and Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) doubled the amount of money included in the 2012 Farm Bill for beetle-mitigation efforts to $200 million.
Fighting bark beetles has broad bipartisan support throughout Colorado and across the West. Wildfires and declining forest health can threaten not only Colorado's high-country communities, but also the sources of Colorado's drinking water and irrigation water.
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.