Forest Service Set to Begin Using New Authority to Treat Bark Beetle, Improve Forest Health

New Authority Stems from Bennet-Authored Provision in Farm Bill

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is primed to begin using its new authority to expedite the treatment process for forest land that has been damaged by insects and disease. In testimony yesterday before the Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said he expects to respond to governors by the end of the month on the areas to which he may be able to apply the expedited authority.

The authority stems from Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s National Forest Insect and Disease Treatment Act that was signed into law as part of the Farm Bill earlier this year.

“One of the main draws to Colorado is that we have some of the most beautiful landscapes in the entire country. Unfortunately, a warming climate and persistent drought have created ripe conditions for insect and disease epidemics to take root,” Bennet said. “It’s encouraging to see the Forest Service moving forward to identify and begin treatments of these at-risk areas. These efforts will help reduce the risk to communities in the event of wildfire and protect our natural resources.”

Bennet’s bill, cosponsored by Senators Mark Udall, Ron Wyden, and Max Baucus, directs USFS to treat one or more subwatersheds on all National Forests that are experiencing certain thresholds of insect epidemics or disease that impairs forest health. In consultation with state officials, USFS will identify eligible areas to conduct expedited treatments of acreage suffering from insect and disease epidemics.

Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell yesterday told Senate appropriators that he had received recommendations from 36 governors, including Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, for areas that the USFS should prioritize under this expedited authority.

Bennet is the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Forestry, Conservation and Natural Resources, whose jurisdiction includes the policies that manage all 193 million acres of public lands controlled by the USFS.