Like Rep. Lauren Boebert and all Coloradans, I want fewer forest fires and cleaner air. But her focus on beetle-killed timber is a smoke screen for what her “Fix our Forests” bill really does: HR 4302 appropriates $126 million annually for the U.S. Department of the Interior to mandate a yearly logging quota of 6 billion board feet of timber – with no provision that it must be beetle-killed timber, or that any part of the quota comes from Colorado forests.
In fact, as Colorado loggers and sawmill owners know, the beetle-killed, blue-stained pine has been a boon to the industry for well over a decade. The U.S. Forest Service did allow much of it to be clear-cut, and now it’s actually running out. Most of the remaining dead lodgepole pines are difficult to get to and are too old to use as lumber. Access to beetle-killed forests isn’t the main issue.
So what does Boebert think the bill would actually do for rural Coloradans, if it were ever passed? The Pacific Northwest would benefit the most. The timber industry in Colorado is on track for growth under the recent infrastructure bill, while working closely with the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative. HR 4302’s focus on a federal mandate is a distraction from forest management plans already in place in Colorado; what we need is strong leadership in Washington to make sure funds already appropriated in the infrastructure bill come to our state and are put to good use.
Buying a full-page ad in some newspapers that suggests beetle-killed forests are the sole reason for our devastating fires just shows that Boebert is all flash and few facts. Her forest-themed website contains false and misleading data, and her timing is opportunistic – the recent fires in Boulder County were grass fires fanned by extreme winds, not fueled by beetle-killed forests.
Her focus on bark beetle infestations is neither practical nor responsible, and it’s also out of date. Those fighting these fires know that once a dead tree has dropped its needles, it no longer provides fuel for explosive “canopy fires”; a live green tree provides more fuel. Unlike Boebert, I’m not interested in soundbite solutions, especially when Coloradans who really understand our forests see how shallow they are.
I am interested, though, in securing the rights of individual communities in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District to best decide how to manage our own forests. As I’ve said, since 65.5% of our forest land is federal, we do have to fight for bigger chunks of those federally managed assets. But I also understand that the Forest Service and our timber industry are already working together – they need strong support for growing and completing existing projects, not an entirely new bill to work with.
We in Colorado know that our forests are different from the forests in Alabama, Mississippi, California and Oregon. My campaign understands that in Colorado, we need to sustain the current logging industry and, at the same time, tackle the intertwined issues of wildfires, forest management, water and land use. But we need to tackle those issues like conservative entrepreneurs to sustain and grow our economy here at home, and not use them as a photo-op to raise campaign funds.
Marina Zimmerman is a Republican running for U.S. Congress in the Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.