Like Rep. Lauren Boebert and all the Coloradans, I want less forest fires and cleaner air. But his focus on beetle-killed wood is a smokescreen for what his “Fix Our Forests” bill actually does: HR 4302 appropriates $ 126 million a year for the US Department of the Interior. imposes an annual harvesting quota of 6 billion board feet of lumber. – without any provision indicating that it must be wood killed by beetles or that part of the quota comes from the forests of Colorado.
In fact, as Colorado loggers and sawmill owners know, beetle-killed blued pine has been a boon to the industry for over a decade. The US Forest Service cleared much of it, and now it’s running out. Most of the remaining dead lodgepole pines are difficult to access and are too old to be used as lumber. Access to forests destroyed by beetles is not the main problem.
So what does Boebert think the bill would actually do for rural dwellers, if it ever passed? The Pacific Northwest would benefit the most. Colorado’s lumber industry is growing under the recent infrastructure bill, while working closely with the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative. HR 4302’s emphasis on a federal mandate is a distraction from the forest management plans already in place in Colorado; what we need is strong leadership in Washington to ensure that the funds already allocated in the infrastructure bill arrive in our state and are used wisely.
Buying a full-page ad in some newspaper that suggests the beetle-killed forests are the only reason for our devastating fires just shows that Boebert is all flash and few facts. Its forest-themed website has false and misleading data, and its timing is opportunistic – the recent fires in Boulder County were grass fires fanned by extreme winds, not fueled by forests killed by the beetles.
Its focus on bark beetle infestations is neither practical nor responsible, and it is also outdated. Those who fight these fires know that once a dead tree has dropped its needles, it no longer provides fuel for explosive “canopy fires”; a living green tree provides more fuel. Unlike Boebert, I’m not interested in sound extract solutions, especially when the Coloradans who really understand our forests see how shallow they are.
I am interested, however, in securing the rights of individual communities in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District to best decide how to manage our own forests. As I said, since 65.5% of our forest land is federal, we have to fight for bigger chunks of these federally managed assets. But I also understand that the Forest Service and our lumber industry are already working together – they need strong support to develop and complete existing projects, not an entirely new bill to work with.
We in Colorado know that our forests are different from the forests of Alabama, Mississippi, California, and Oregon. My campaign understands that in Colorado we must support the current forestry industry and, at the same time, tackle the interrelated issues of wildfires, forest management, water use and land. But we need to tackle these issues, like conservative entrepreneurs, to support and grow our economy here at home, and not use them as a photo op to raise funds for the campaign.
Marina Zimmerman is a Republican running for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District of Colorado.