Barrasso Stands Up To Administration for Intermountain West
Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) criticized the Administration for not addressing the serious bark beetle epidemic in Wyoming and the Intermountain West. The following are excerpts from his remarks at the Senate Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee Legislative hearing:
“We’re facing an unprecedented forest health epidemic. 3.5 million acres of forest in Wyoming are infested by bark beetle. The infestation totals 17.5 million acres across the West.
“This situation is presenting many challenges. Two-hundred and sixty communities in Wyoming are considered ‘at risk’ for wild land fire.
“This is a natural disaster unlike any we have faced before. This Administration must respond accordingly.
“I am deeply disappointed to see that the President’s budget does not allocate a single penny to addressing this multi-state emergency.
“I want to know how this Administration is going to meet its responsibility to the people of my state—and the entire Intermountain West.
“Funding is not our only challenge in the face of this infestation. We must also address long-term, efficient management of our forests.
“In the face of this emergency, the Administration must ignore politics, and focus on results.
“The Forest Service should utilize all available management authorities that will mitigate bark beetle effects.”
Lummis, Herseth Sandlin Encourage USDA To Act
Today, Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) lead a bipartisan group of their western colleagues in writing to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, urging the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a comprehensive and proactive strategy for responding to the bark beetle epidemics in the West.
“We need to decide as a country what we want our forests to look like for our children and grandchildren,” Rep. Lummis said. “Steps need to be taken to ensure the forests we enjoy are not destroyed by the serious threat posed by the bark beetle. Funding is one part of that equation, but developing a comprehensive forest management strategy is also critical. Proactive mitigation and prevention will help restore long-term forest and watershed health.”
“The damage done by pine beetles dramatically increases the risk of catastrophic wildfires, ultimately endangering the safety of rural communities, inhibiting economic growth and diminishing the role forests play in addressing climate change,” Rep. Herseth Sandlin said. “Last year, thanks in part to the efforts of Representative Lummis and me, the Forest Service dedicated $40 million to combating pine beetles in the Rocky Mountain Region. This funding was a step in the right direction, but we believe that it is absolutely critical that the USDA develop a comprehensive, nationwide plan to address outbreaks of pine beetles. Proactive mitigation and prevention will be more cost-effective than rehabilitation and restoration following catastrophic fires.”
Current outbreaks of bark beetles, which are occurring in numerous forest ecosystems across western North America, are the largest in recorded history. The current outbreaks are notable for their intensity, extensive range, and simultaneous occurrence in multiple ecosystems. During the last 10 years more than 17 million acres have been affected by bark beetles in the Interior West, including Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Nationally, federal land managers estimate that approximately 190 million acres of federal forest lands are at unnaturally high risk of catastrophic wildfire and large-scale insect and disease outbreaks due to unhealthy forest conditions.
The Herseth Sandlin/Lummis letter requests that the USDA plan include projected scope of work, estimated costs, and source of funds. The following members signed the bipartisan letter: John Salazar (D-CO), Betsy Markey (D-CO), Joe Baca (D-CA), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Walt Minnick (D-ID), Jared Polis (D-CO), Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Denny Rehberg (R-MT).
Full text of the letter:
April 21, 2010
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
Current outbreaks of bark beetles, which are occurring in numerous forest ecosystems across western North America, are the largest in recorded history. The current outbreaks are notable for their intensity, extensive range, and simultaneous occurrence in multiple ecosystems. During the last 10 years more than 17 million acres have been affected by bark beetles in the Interior West, including Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
The bark beetle epidemics have created the potential for catastrophic fires that threaten communities, forests, watersheds, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and local tourism industries. Damage to forests in headwater states also jeopardizes the livelihood of wildlife, farms and communities in ‘downstream states’, whose economic lifeblood depends on the uninterrupted flow of water.
In FY 2010, the Forest Service directed approximately $74 million to address bark beetle related issues in Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana and Idaho. Those funds were urgently needed and greatly appreciated, but the work is far from over. In a June 2008 letter to former Chief Gail Kimbell, Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Rick Cables identified $82 million in FY 2011 funding needs just for short-term public safety issues associated with the mountain pine beetle epidemic in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. The job of restoring long-term forest and watershed health will take years, will require additional funding, and demands a comprehensive, coordinated approach to recovery not limited to single regions
The scope and intensity of the bark beetle epidemics warrant an emergency response. The Forest Service does not fight fire emergencies with funds allocated for annual operations. We do not believe that the response to the bark beetle epidemics should be funded out of operating funds for routine management or proactive programs designed to keep forests healthy or halt the forward progress of bark beetles.
We urge you to develop a comprehensive and proactive strategy for responding to the bark beetle epidemics. This strategy should include the projected scope of work, estimated costs, and source of funds. Proactive mitigation and prevention will be more cost effective than rehabilitation and restoration following catastrophic fires.
Sources: Office of Senator Barrasso and Office of Rep. Lummis
Posted by Kaci Switzer