County looking to land state pine beetle money |

County looking to land state pine beetle money

NICOLE FORMOSAsummit daily newsSummit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY The county hopes to tap into a $1 million pot of state money set aside for forest improvement projects in light of the states growing pine beetle epidemic.The funds are the result of House Bill 1130, which passed this legislative session under the lead sponsorship of Rep. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne and Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Coal Creek Canyon.The idea is to encourage communities with an approved wildfire protection plan to develop forest restoration proposals that protect critical water supplies and address related forest health issues such as wildfire risk reduction, community protection, ecological restoration and utilization of woody biomass.The county plans to apply for a couple hundred thousand dollars to augment its existing grant program, which awards matching money to local HOAs and other property owners for fuel reduction projects, said interim county manager Steve Hill.The Board of County Commissioners established the grant program last year, divvying up $50,000 among property owners in high risk areas as identified in the wildfire protection plan. This year, the funding was increased to $140,000. Any state money the county receives would beef up the countys pool of money allowing more local property owners a chance at financial assistance for forest projects.Hill believes the countys model is successful and is optimistic at the chance to secure some of the grant money.I think to some degree the states looking for projects that really show how these dollars can improve life safety and reduce wildfire risk in real life situations, Hill said.But, with damage from the pine beetle growing exponentially in the state, the Colorado State Forest Service is expecting the applications to pour in. Its going to be very competitive, we can count on that, said Ron Cousineau, Colorado State Forest Service district forester for Summit, Grand and Eagle counties.The Colorado State Forest Service is responsible for administering the grant money, which will come from the same funds that pay for projects under the states annual water bill. For that reason, there is a strong emphasis on restoration projects that protect state watersheds. Proposals can be on any combination of private, federal, state, county or municipal forest property. The states contribution is capped at 60 percent of each project.A technical advisory panel will be formed to evaluate the grant applications.Applications are due by 4 p.m. on July 27 and can be obtained at Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at

Colorado Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald will headline a community forum on forest health funding at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Summit County Community & Senior Center. Other panelists are Trudy Kareus, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazars regional director for the Western Slope; Paul Orbuch, assistant director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources; Mark Mathis, president of Confluence Energy LLC, which is building a $10 million plant in Kremmling that will use beetle kill material to produce wood pellets for home heating; and Joe Duda, the forest management division supervisor for the Colorado State Forest Service, which is the administrator for the $1 million in state funds for forest improvement projects.

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