Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Udall Throws $22 Million at his Problem

Mark Udall may have come to realize that his bear hug with the environmentalists can be blamed for the destruction of millions of acres of forests by fire and beetle.

Now, he has sponsored a bill to get the Congress to appropriate $22 million so that the forest service can "help communities cope with wildfire threats, create wildfire response plans and provide grants for beetle-killed trees to be used for energy production. "

The entire Colorado delegation is behind the bill, and that is good news. The bad news is that Udall's bedfellows in the environmentalist left oppose it.

Sloan Shoemaker, director of the Carbondale-based Wilderness Workshop, said it’s good to see the congressional delegation working together to address bark beetle concerns. But “the bill’s a mixed bag” because he fears it will streamline the public involvement process under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“It feels like they’re monkeying with bedrock environmental legislation in order to sort of apply the wrong solution to the problem,” he said.

The environmentalist left wants the right to go into court in Colorado to slow the thinning process. They think thinning is the "wrong solution," and that the only right solution is to let the forests burn.

A Wayne Allard spokesman thought the bill would pass if a national environmentalist group didn't oppose it. So much for that.

While we applaud this bill, we wonder if Mark Udall's purpose is to use it to insulate him from his own record of environmental extremism. $22 million doesn't go far, given the magnitude of the problem. Consider that it costs $600 an acre to reseed a burned forest. What must it cost per acre to remove the undergrowth and excess trees? Common sense suggests several thousand dollars per acre. If we assumed that it cost only two thousand dollars per acre, $22 million would thin only 11 thousand acres, or 17 square miles (an area a little bigger than 4 miles by 4 miles).

Unfortunately, Udall's inclusion of bio fuels grants in the bill suggests that he is unserious about solving the problem. Allowing the forest service to keep forest roads open to the public might do more good than this bill, and yet Udall opposes that.

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