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New bill addresses role of state forest service in wildfire mitigation

Published: April 30, 2013, 3:47 pm, by Ryan Handy

A new wildfire-themed Senate bill that seeks to involve the Colorado State Forest Service in biomass and wildfire plans passed the State Senate on Monday.

The bill, Senate Bill 273, was sponsored by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass. Here’s the wrap-up the senator’s office provides of the bill:

  • Directs the Colorado Forest Service to work with federal departments to facilitate the use of forest biomass at timber mills.
  • Directs the Colorado Forest Service to assist neighborhoods in high risk areas with their community wildfire protection plans.
  • Requires the Air Quality commission to analyze equipment fueled by biomass
  • Creates eligibility for bonding with the Water Resources Power Development Authority up to $50 million for timber and biomass related industrial development.

The question is–how would this bill change things for the state forest service? The agency is currently involved both in using forest biomass–dead trees, slash piles, anything that’s a result of forest work--at timber mills, said Ryan Lockwood, a spokesman for the agency. For communities with land in the state forest service territory, the agency must sign off on the community wildfire protection plans for them to be approved.

Lockwood said officials will have to look at the bill’s exact language to see what’s new, or different, about it. I hope to have more details about that soon.

In the meantime, the bill was introduced in the State House on Monday, and was moved into the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee for consideration. It must pass that as well as two more readings before it becomes law.