For watershed, wildfire protection, the question remains: ‘Where’s the money?’ |

For watershed, wildfire protection, the question remains: ‘Where’s the money?’

Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” During its final meeting of 2007, the Mountain Pine Beetle Task Force examined prospects for fire mitigation, watershed protection and forest health project funding in the coming year.

At the federal level, Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton announced that $1.3 million had been allocated to the Wildernest Subdivision Stewardship Project, which is now under contract with work scheduled to begin this winter.

The next major Forest Service initiative will be an 800- to 1,000-acre project in the Keystone area. Funding for the project is contingent on the appropriations bill currently under review by the U.S. Senate.

Newton explained that project requests from Colorado are competing for appropriations dollars with those from the damaging wildfires California experienced this year as well as many other funding priorities for Congress.

At the state level, soon-to-be state Senator Dan Gibbs has announced his intention to reintroduce the legislation he and former state Senate president Joan Fitz-Gerald carried to a successful conclusion this spring.

Summit County’s share of the $1 million distributed statewide through the Gibbs bill was $176,000 with $140,000 going to the county to supplement its matching grant program with private landowners and $36,000 awarded to a watershed protection project along Straight Creek adjacent to the eastbound I-70 approach to the tunnel.

According to Summit County Fire Mitigation Officer Patti Maguire, the Fire Council awarded $353,371 in matching funds to homeowners and homeowner’s associations over four grant cycles this year.

Commissioner Bob French confirmed that the Board of County Commissioners will consider combining a scheduled open space acquisition ballot initiative next November with a forest health funding component, which would address the need for greater wildfire and watershed protection efforts as the mountain pine beetle epidemic reaches maximum impact.

Carl Spaulding, president of the Colorado Timber Industry Association, then addressed the challenges the private sector is experiencing in terms of the cost of harvesting wood products from both private and public forests in Colorado and in finding markets for the goods while remaining in business.

Industry is finally being acknowledged as playing an essential role in finding economic uses for beetle-killed trees and promoting the long-term health and sustainability of Colorado’s forest ecosystems.

In a concluding piece of business, the task force agreed on a new name, the Forest Health and Watershed Protection Task Force, affirming its long-term commitment to promote forest health and watershed protection in Summit County and neighboring mountain communities.

The group’s next meeting will take place at 7:30 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008, at the Best Western Lake Dillon Lodge in Frisco.

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