Politics Heat Up On the Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic In the West

June 25, 2010 Friday

As pines die out western wildlife will be impacted. So sad.Sad and more sad;end of an era sad…we are in for a huge and devistating change in the west and I do see it as I type this post. From NRDC In the News.
By Patrick Reis

The Obama administration laid out a series of concerns with Rep. Cynthia Lummis’ (R-Wyo.) legislation that she says will help address the epidemic of bark beetles in Western forests.

Lummis’ bill, H.R. 5192, would require the Agriculture Department to set up demonstration projects for dealing with pine beetles in Western national forests, as well as authorize the Forest Service to conduct “emergency removal” of dying trees with streamlined reviews under environmental laws.

Lummis said her legislation was a starting point for developing a comprehensive federal response to a problem that threatens the Western environment, public safety and energy infrastructure. As well as being a fire risk, the dead trees threaten human health and power lines when they fall, Lummis said yesterday at a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing.

But Jay Jensen, Agriculture’s deputy undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, said the Obama administration “does not believe the bill is the best approach” to dealing with the beetle outbreak.

Jensen noted that there were no known measures to prevent the effects of bark beetle infestations though the bill required his department to set up projects demonstrating how such a thing could be done.

He also criticized provisions that would exempt private utilities that have rights of way through national forests from the costs of repairing damages from falling trees in infested areas. Jensen said the provision could stick taxpayers with a bill for problems caused by companies’ failure to manage lands for which they are responsible.

He also raised concerns with provisions that would streamline reviews of beetle-related timber projects under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, as well as set a timeline for resolving lawsuits over the timber projects.

Environmental groups beat that drum as well.

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