Beetle-kill bills move out of committee as economics move more to the forefront

Lawmakers are increasingly banking on bugs, providing tax incentives to businesses dealing with Colorado’s massive mountain-pine beetle outbreak and at the same time trying to mitigate the epidemic’s potentially devastating economic impacts.

Recent federal legislation introduced by Sen. Mark Udall and three bills in the statehouse all make mention of the economic impacts of the decade-old beetle-kill outbreak, which has wiped out nearly two million acres of lodgepole pine forest in Colorado and is seen as a huge threat to the state’s multi-billion-dollar tourism industry.

That’s a slight shift in tone from years past when lawmakers zeroed in more on the public safety risks posed by wildfire. Two of Rep. Christine Scanlan’s current beetle-kill bills, Senate Bills 20 and 105, focus on fire response, delineating the roles of state and local emergency response teams and removing property tax limits (with voter approval) in counties seeking more firefighting funds. Both passed out of the Local Government Committee this week.

But her other bill, SB 16, which this week passed out of the Finance Committee, gives a five-year property tax exemption for businesses that remove beetle-kill trees when it promotes forest restoration. The bill also creates a start-up fund for new businesses that process and sell beetle-kill timber.

“We are helping our business community during this economic slowdown, which in turn will help spur the local economy,” said Scanlan, who recently lobbied in Washington for more federal funds to fight the epidemic.

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