Forest Service official: Bark beetle problem will continue for at least 10 more years | TheFencePost.com

Forest Service official: Bark beetle problem will continue for at least 10 more years

Bill Jackson
Greeley, Colo.

CHEYENNE – A U.S. Forest Service official told a group of agriculture producers Tuesday that the bark beetle problem has reached epic proportions, saying “100,000 trees a day are falling and that will continue every day for the next 10 years.”

Rick Cables, a regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service in Golden, said the dead trees will have drastic consequences on the watershed from those forests, which supply water to 177 counties in the western U.S.

Water quantity and quality, conservation programs, the bark beetle problem and the nation’s dairy industry were topics topping the agenda Tuesday morning at a U.S. House Committee on Agriculture hearing to review agriculture policy in advance of the 2012 Food, Conservation and Energy Act, commonly referred to as the farm bill.

The more than two-hour meeting at Laramie County Community College drew about 100 people, many of them ranchers and farmers from Wyoming with a few from Colorado, including Les Hardesty of Greeley and Jerry Cooksey of Roggen, who addressed eight members of the committee that included Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo.

Tuesday’s meeting was the fourth in a series being conducted across the nation.

The first panel addressed the bark beetle problem in the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado, specifically in the Arapahoe and Roosevelt national forests of northern Colorado and the Medicine Bow region of southern Wyoming.

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In a response to a question from Markey, Cables said the forest service is looking at possible forest closures due to a safety hazard of falling trees, and said $40 million has been spent in clearing roads of fallen trees and other mitigation work.

In a response to a question from Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., Cables said there is research being conducted that indicates the loss of millions of trees to the insect will result in a pattern change of snowmelt.

“When we don’t have the shade to hold the snow, then the snow melts quicker and comes off the mountains faster and sooner, so there won’t be water available when it is needed in critical summer months,” Cables said.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., chairman of the committee, said “traditional farm programs are a small part of the farm bill, but without them many farmers wouldn’t get the financing they need,” adding drafting a bill “this size takes a lot of time and effort.”

Peterson took shots at what he called “extreme environmentalists,” who threaten federal agencies such as the Forest Service with lawsuits on programs those agencies want to implement and stall western water projects.

“It’s ridiculous, and they (environmentalists) are making a lot of money by doing it,” Peterson said to applause. Unfortunately, he said in an interview after the meeting, “there’s not anything we (the House committee) can do, because we don’t have the jurisdiction.”

Cooksey encouraged the committee to continue to provide a farm safety net in the next farm bill that reflects the realities of “today’s production system, protecting us from volatile weather and market conditions, and supports our stewardship and conservation of agricultural land.” He said that safety net needs to be reliable, be flexible and provide meaningful coverage for producers throughout the country.

“Agriculture currently constitutes the one segment of the nation’s trade portfolio that results in a trade surplus,” Cooksey said. As president of the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers, Cooksey said his organization is in line with the national organization, which supports “a robust trade agenda including passage of pending bilateral free trade agreements.”

He, along with Wyoming ranchers, urged the maintaining of conservation programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, which has taken marginal crop land out of production and put it into grass, while at the same time adjusting to new programs implemented in the past couple of years.

Hardesty said the nation’s dairy industry is starting to see recovery from a “disastrous 2009,” but that recovery is slower than anticipated.

“While I understand and appreciate the timeline you have outlined for farm policy development, I want to stress that the idea of waiting until 2012 to reform dairy policy leaves many of us concerned,” Hardesty said. “Many of my neighbors are wondering if they will make it to 2011. Keep that in mind as you continue your discussions. Dairy leaders are working hard to develop consensus within the industry yet this year.”

CHEYENNE – A U.S. Forest Service official told a group of agriculture producers Tuesday that the bark beetle problem has reached epic proportions, saying “100,000 trees a day are falling and that will continue every day for the next 10 years.”

Rick Cables, a regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service in Golden, said the dead trees will have drastic consequences on the watershed from those forests, which supply water to 177 counties in the western U.S.

Water quantity and quality, conservation programs, the bark beetle problem and the nation’s dairy industry were topics topping the agenda Tuesday morning at a U.S. House Committee on Agriculture hearing to review agriculture policy in advance of the 2012 Food, Conservation and Energy Act, commonly referred to as the farm bill.

The more than two-hour meeting at Laramie County Community College drew about 100 people, many of them ranchers and farmers from Wyoming with a few from Colorado, including Les Hardesty of Greeley and Jerry Cooksey of Roggen, who addressed eight members of the committee that included Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo.

Tuesday’s meeting was the fourth in a series being conducted across the nation.

The first panel addressed the bark beetle problem in the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado, specifically in the Arapahoe and Roosevelt national forests of northern Colorado and the Medicine Bow region of southern Wyoming.

In a response to a question from Markey, Cables said the forest service is looking at possible forest closures due to a safety hazard of falling trees, and said $40 million has been spent in clearing roads of fallen trees and other mitigation work.

In a response to a question from Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., Cables said there is research being conducted that indicates the loss of millions of trees to the insect will result in a pattern change of snowmelt.

“When we don’t have the shade to hold the snow, then the snow melts quicker and comes off the mountains faster and sooner, so there won’t be water available when it is needed in critical summer months,” Cables said.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., chairman of the committee, said “traditional farm programs are a small part of the farm bill, but without them many farmers wouldn’t get the financing they need,” adding drafting a bill “this size takes a lot of time and effort.”

Peterson took shots at what he called “extreme environmentalists,” who threaten federal agencies such as the Forest Service with lawsuits on programs those agencies want to implement and stall western water projects.

“It’s ridiculous, and they (environmentalists) are making a lot of money by doing it,” Peterson said to applause. Unfortunately, he said in an interview after the meeting, “there’s not anything we (the House committee) can do, because we don’t have the jurisdiction.”

Cooksey encouraged the committee to continue to provide a farm safety net in the next farm bill that reflects the realities of “today’s production system, protecting us from volatile weather and market conditions, and supports our stewardship and conservation of agricultural land.” He said that safety net needs to be reliable, be flexible and provide meaningful coverage for producers throughout the country.

“Agriculture currently constitutes the one segment of the nation’s trade portfolio that results in a trade surplus,” Cooksey said. As president of the Colorado Association of Wheat Growers, Cooksey said his organization is in line with the national organization, which supports “a robust trade agenda including passage of pending bilateral free trade agreements.”

He, along with Wyoming ranchers, urged the maintaining of conservation programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, which has taken marginal crop land out of production and put it into grass, while at the same time adjusting to new programs implemented in the past couple of years.

Hardesty said the nation’s dairy industry is starting to see recovery from a “disastrous 2009,” but that recovery is slower than anticipated.

“While I understand and appreciate the timeline you have outlined for farm policy development, I want to stress that the idea of waiting until 2012 to reform dairy policy leaves many of us concerned,” Hardesty said. “Many of my neighbors are wondering if they will make it to 2011. Keep that in mind as you continue your discussions. Dairy leaders are working hard to develop consensus within the industry yet this year.”

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