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Public Statements

Letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

Letter

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Date:
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Congressman Cory Gardner (R-CO) is asking U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for greater assistance with the removal of beetle-kill trees from Colorado's forests.

"As you are aware, Colorado is experiencing one of the worst fire seasons on record," Gardner wrote in a letter to Vilsack. "It is important that we work together to alleviate and assist the state and federal partners in removing beetle kill infested forest areas. By accomplishing this goal, we can improve the prospects for maintaining and controlling future forest fires."

Gardner also highlighted a letter sent by Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. McNulty's letter stresses the importance of a coordinated state and federal effort through active and preventative management of federal forest lands.

See below for a copy of the letter:

July 5, 2012

The Honorable Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

Today I am writing to express my concerns regarding the bark beetle epidemic throughout Colorado and the threat it poses to the spread of wildfires. As you are aware, Colorado is experiencing one of the worst fire seasons on record. It is important that we work together to alleviate and assist the state and federal partners in removing beetle kill infested forest areas. By accomplishing this goal, we can improve the prospects for maintaining and controlling future forest fires.

Recently, the House Committee on Appropriations passed the Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill in which the committee recommended over $9 million for Forestry Management. A large part of forestry management is bark beetle mitigation as highlighted in the Committee Report.

We must put in place a long-term forest management plan. This will prevent the spread of bark beetle infestation to healthy forests, and also reduce public safety risks as seen by over 30,000 forced evacuations in Colorado alone. States throughout the Rocky Mountain west recognize the urgency this epidemic presents.

In addition to moving forward with removal plans, it is imperative that we allow for expedited removal of bark beetle trees. Members of Congress from Colorado are currently working on legislation that would facilitate more state control for removal of hazardous fuels. The legislation is necessary because we are in an emergency situation. If we do not move ahead, there will be a higher risk of fires spreading rapidly because of bark beetle infested forests.

I would also like to draw your attention to a letter sent by Frank McNulty, the Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives to John Hickenlooper, the Governor of Colorado. It is enclosed for your review. The letter stresses the importance of a coordinated state and federal effort through active and preventative management of federal forest lands. The letter states, "beetle kill poses the immediate threat of catastrophic wildfires that destroy ecosystems, pollute watersheds reserved for our drinking water, and lead to the loss of homes and, most devastatingly, the loss of life." This illustrates how necessary it is to stop this problem before it gets any worse. I support Speaker McNulty in his efforts to manage federal forest lands in order to prevent future wildfires.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to working with you in the future.

Sincerely,

Cory Gardner
Member of Congress


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