Colorado Companies Win USDA Forest Stewardship Contracts to Improve Forest Health

$13.4 Million in Contracts Will Improve 20,000 Acres of National Forest

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today congratulated Confluence Energy and West Range Reclamation on each winning a 10-year U.S. Forest Service stewardship contract. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that the two companies would be awarded contracts totaling $13.4 million to improve the health of 20,000 acres of national forest.

“Active management of our multiple use national forest acreage in Colorado is vital as we confront the bark beetle epidemic and grow our forest products industries,” Bennet said. “After a summer of devastating wildfires, there’s an even greater urgency to ensure that our forests are healthy and resilient.”

The stewardship contracts are focused on improving the health of subalpine and mountain forests affected by mountain pine beetle on portions of the Medicine Bow-Routt and the White River national forests in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado.

“These stewardship contracts will bring new jobs to the state, create a healthier forest for the surrounding communities, reduce wildfire risk and help generate a new source of renewable energy,” Bennet added. “It’s a commonsense program that has proven to be a model for forest restoration in Colorado.”

The Medicine Bow-Routt Long Term Stewardship Contract was awarded to Confluence Energy of Kremmling, Colorado for $4.75 million over ten years. Confluence Energy will remove beetle-killed trees and pile or scatter the residual debris that has no commercial value. In areas where the trees have commercial value for wood products such as dimension lumber, wood pellets and other biomass products, Confluence Energy will pay for that material to offset the cost to the government of the other forest health treatments in the contract area.

“The Confluence Energy team is excited and looks forward to working with the Forest Service to manage the Medicine Bow-Routt project,” said Betty Straub of Confluence Energy. “We are confident in our ability to utilize the unwanted material for clean energy and high value purposes.”

“We are pleased to add Confluence Energy to the diverse mix of forest product partners who will continue to help in our forest restoration efforts,” said Medicine Bow-Routt Forest Supervisor Phil Cruz.

West Range Reclamation of Hotchkiss, Colorado submitted a winning bid of $8.66 million for the White River Long Term Stewardship Contract. The contract focuses on the removal of tree species susceptible to insect and disease infestations, including lodgepole pine, subalpine fir, Douglas-fir, Engelmann spruce, aspen, and ponderosa pine. West Range has partnered with Eagle Valley Clean Energy to develop an environmentally-sound use for the dead and small diameter trees (woody biomass) that will be removed during fuels reduction and forest health treatments.

“The continued stability of the ten-year project will allow West Range to provide well-paying, steady, year-round work for our current employees and the ability to hire more skilled operators,” said Pam Motley of West Range Reclamation. “We also intend to do our part to help strengthen local economies by purchasing products and services such as fuel, food, housing, tools, parts, supplies, rentals and repair services from local businesses.”

“This contract realizes an opportunity for us to achieve critical landscape restoration on the White River National Forest,” said White River Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. “It also continues our legacy of sustainable use of wood products; from saw logs to biomass for renewable energy.”

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 most stewardship contracts underway.

The 2012 Farm Bill garnered broad, bipartisan support when the Senate passed it in June. The House Agriculture Committee passed its own version with bipartisan support. However, neither version has yet to be considered by the full House.