Two state lawmakers from mountain districts are working Capitol Hill the next couple of days in a bid to get the federal government to find some funds to fight the growing mountain pine beetle infestation that has laid waste to more than 2 million acres of Colorado forest.
State Rep. Christin Scanlan, D-Dillon, and state Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, whose districts have been ravaged by the rice-sized bugs, testified before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands Tuesday that resulting wildfires could knock out the nation’s electrical grid and spoil water supplies for millions of downstream consumers in other states.
They urged Congress to find more money for fire prevention and suppression, pass a strong version of the FLAME Act, which would separate suppression and prevention funding and to follow Colorado’s lead on state laws that allow more cross-jurisdictional cooperation.
Also Tuesday, Colorado Sen. Mark Udall brought up the bark-beetle epidemic during his first hearing as chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks.
Udall questioned acting National Park Service director Dan Wenk on the Obama administration’s plans to deal with the backlog of badly needed repairs in national parks in Colorado and other parts of the country, including widespread bark-beetle devastation.
Udall admitted the park service has been under-funded for decades under both Democratic and Republican administrations, but said he’ll work to find more money and examine funding policies before the committee begins hearing park-related bills next month.