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Bucks for beetles

BOB BERWYNsummit daily news

SUMMIT COUNTY – The first few drops in a badly needed stream of Forest Service funding have finally arrived in Summit County, with $85,000 available immediately to remove beetle-killed and infected trees in the Iron Springs area, near the high school, and around the County Commons.”It’s great news. Hopefully we’ll hear chainsaws pretty soon,” said County Commissioner Bill Wallace, explaining that those two areas – adjacent, but separate projects – have been identified as hot spots by the Community Wildfire Protection Plan.The $85,000 is part of a larger $550,000 allocation derived from redirecting funding from other Forest Service regions to reduce wildfire hazards to homes, watersheds, critical infrastructure and important recreational facilities in the five counties (Grand, Eagle, Jackson, Routt and Summit) that make up the Northern Colorado Bark Beetle Cooperative.A lobbying team from the region visited Washington, D.C., several weeks ago, apparently reaching the right people in the Forest Service. As Wallace and Northwest Colorado Council of Governments executive director Gary Severson understand it, the money will go to paying a contractor to cut and remove the timber. That means when Forest Service rangers pull out the government checkbook, they will be writing checks to the guys with the chainsaws – quite the turnaround from the days when logging companies used to pay the Forest Service for timber on public lands.Wallace said a key long-term goal is to develop 10-year stewardship contracts so that the money can flow in the other direction.”The chainsaws should fire up this summer,” Severson said. “The money is here in Colorado, ready to spend.”Severson said the main criteria for the funding was that, first of all, it’s federal money for work on federal lands. Secondly, the projects had to be “NEPA-ready,” meaning the environmental studies had to be in place. All the projects selected had to be targeted at reducing risks to human life, watersheds and public infrastructure.Wallace said his efforts will continue to focus on working with the Dillon Ranger District to make sure there are other NEPA-ready projects if and when more money is available. Additionally, the bark beetle co-op made sure that the money was spread around the entire region, with at least one project in every county.Eagle County scored $295,000 for fuels reduction, timber salvage and reforestation in the Piney and Vail Valley partnership projects.Jackson County will spend $75,000 on a fuels reduction project in a remote subdivision and recreation corridor surrounded by forest infested with bark beetles, while $20,000 will go to Routt County for a fuels reduction project in a major recreation corridor that serves private landowners and recreation industry businesses.The Arapaho National Recreation Area Good Neighbor program gets $75,000 for biomass removal and tree thinning in a high value recreation area.Severson said there’s more money potentially in the pipeline, and that the co-op still has a chance to garner additional funds.”We’re still at the plate, swinging,” he said.The co-op is working toward the long-term goal of building resilience and reducing the risk young trees when large scale fires move across the landscape. Bob Berwyn can be reached (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.


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