Colorado delegates unite to fight bark beetles
A destructive force for Colorado’s forests is proving to be a unifying one for its congressional delegation.
In a rare show of solidarity, all seven U.S. House of Representatives members from Colorado agreed to cosponsor legislation to combat the effects of the state’s bark beetle infestation.
U.S. Sen. John Salazar, a Democrat from Manassa, introduced the measure. It is cosponsored by fellow Colorado Democrats Jared Polis, Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Betsy Markey, and Colorado Republicans Mike Coffman and Doug Lamborn.
“The bark beetle has hit my district hard, and I’m glad we’re working together to hit back. This is something we can all agree on,” said Salazar, whose district includes much of western Colorado, in a joint news release with the rest of Colorado’s House delegation.
The legislation bears similarities to a bipartisan measure introduced last month by U.S. Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and James Risch, R-Idaho. Both bills would establish emergency areas where an emphasis would be placed on taking steps to reduce dangers from fire and falling trees. Both provide incentives for conversion of forest materials into biofuels.
“This bill is the result of a collaborative, bipartisan effort to address an urgent concern in Colorado and the entire Mountain West,” Lamborn said in the delegation’s news release. “It provides tools to help reduce the threat of fire and other public safety hazards.”
Salazar spokesman Eric Wortman said he and others involved with the legislation were wondering Thursday if this is the only bill all seven Colorado congressional representatives are co-sponsoring.
“I don’t think it is, but we’re not sure,” he said.
He added, “Showing good Republican and Democratic support can always improve your chance of passage.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture allocated an additional $40 million to the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region to deal with the consequences of the beetle infestation, which has spread to millions of acres in the region.
The infestation was the subject of a conference Thursday in Aspen, where Gov. Bill Ritter was scheduled to speak.