Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, U.S. Senators for Colorado, today released the following statements on the dedication of an additional $40 million from the USDA to the U.S. Forest Service to address public safety concerns and forest health needs arising from the millions of acres of dead and dying trees from bark beetle infestations in the West.
"I am pleased that the Forest Service listened to our pleas to allocate seriously needed funds to address the bark beetle," said Senator Udall, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "Dead and dying trees present a hazard to public land users from falling trees along trails and in campgrounds and increased fire threats. These funds will help keep these recreational facilities open and available and help communities better protect property, people and facilities."
"Colorado's forests have been hit tremendously hard by the bark beetle epidemic, and now dying trees threaten public safety as well as the viability of our watersheds and critical water supplies," said Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. "This boost in funding should give forestry officials the resources they need to address the bark beetle epidemic in a way that creates jobs, spurs economic growth, and supports our efforts to protect and preserve Colorado's forest health for years to come."
Earlier this year, Senators Udall and Bennet urged the United States Department of Agriculture to direct emergency resources to Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Region to address public safety, infrastructure and ecological damage caused by the bark beetle.
Explaining that the "currently the Forest Service is forced to finance bark beetle related emergency work within the confines of the region's annually allocated budget" the lawmakers made the case that the scope and intensity of the forest health event warrants an national response.
The additional funding will be provided to the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Region, where some of the most serious levels of infestation are located. Included in this total will be five million dollars of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding that the Forest Service has been using to reduce the threat of wildfires. Additional funds will also be directed to the other western Regions.
The funding will help make forests more resilient to climate change and protect and preserve them for future generations. Bark beetle is in epidemic stages across the Rocky Mountain region. Its effects have been especially severe in the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Region, where more than 2.5 million acres have been affected.
The bark-beetle epidemic has had a severe impact on forest health and has resulted in a dramatic increase in the danger of trees falling on roads, trails, recreation areas. In addition, fire as well as dead and dying trees affect water quality and water flow across the Rocky Mountain Region.