SUMMIT COUNTY " State Rep. Christine Scanlan received strong congressional support this week during a trip to Washington D.C. for more federal funding to help fight the pine-beetle epidemic.
"I came out here to raise the profile of this issue and get the resources we need to address the bark-beetle crisis head-on," Scanlan said.
"If Congress didn't know before, they do now: This is a national security situation, and it is dire."
Scanlan, a Dillon Democrat who co-chairs the state interim committee on wildfires, was joined by Jeff Jahnke, the director of the Colorado State Forest Service, and Rick Cables, chief forester for the Rocky Mountain Region, to request that at least $208.3 million be allocated for pine-beetle mitigation over the next three years.
"I feel confident after today that Congress has heard us, and that it will provide the hammer and nails we've asked for, and will do so now," Scanlan said.
During their trip, the group met with members of Congress and officials with the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, explaining that the pine-beetle problem is now a matter of national security, as falling dead trees threaten the power grid along the Continental Divide.
"The bark-beetle epidemic poses a major threat to energy transmission infrastructure in Colorado and throughout the West," said U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo.
"I was prepared to direct millions in vital funding for Colorado to help address this issue, but those efforts have been stymied by the Democratic leadership's decision to not allow the Interior Appropriations Bill to be marked up, placing beetle mitigation funding in peril."
Congressman Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, echoed Allard's sentiments, and Wednesday he sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell requesting additional funding to help fight an epidemic that "will be felt for years to come."
"We need to do as much as we can, as soon as we can to reduce threats and increase public safety," Udall said.
"Additional funding can help create a future forest condition that will help forests be more resilient and better about to respond to insects, drought and other natural conditions."
Scanlan was very blunt as she described the severity of the problem to officials in the nation's capital, citing "catastrophic forest fires and sweeping power failures" as just a few of the possible disasters Colorado has looming on the horizon.
"The state has been creative as possible addressing the issue, we simply need more resources," Scanlan said.
"Fortunately, Washington has heard out plea, and has pledged to respond."