Billions of beetles are eating through spruce and pine trees in Routt County, while serious drought is leaving other trees parched.
To budding entrepreneurs, those factors mean more than a drastically changed landscape. They also mean a chance to fill a niche by cutting and removing dead trees from forests and finding creative ways to use the leftover wood to heat homes, build furniture and more.
On Monday, a dozen experts from across the state will gather in Steamboat Springs for the free "Could We Wood" forum to discuss ways to use wood products.
The forum is a great opportunity for business people, government officials, technology buffs, residents who live in or near forests, and anyone else who wants to learn about the effect drought and beetles are having on area forests and what can be done, said Noreen Moore. Moore is the business resource director with the Steamboat Springs Chamber and Resort Association and is a key organizer of the event.
"The scope of this is much bigger ... much broader, and we want to invite all people that have an interest in the product, in the problem and in the potential that's part of this," Moore said.
The idea for the forum cropped up a month ago, when Moore attended a Bark Beetle Task Force meeting.
There is an obvious need for cutting trees in the area to reduce the risk of fire, but finding out what to do with those trees besides simply making chip piles is a bigger question, she said.
To help answer that question, "an incredible array" of experts will come together Monday night for discussions.
The list of speakers includes Scott Bruntjen, past mayor of Nederland where biomass products heat the community building; Steve Roosa of Delta Dynamics, which provides the technology Nederland uses; Ward Huffman of the Department of Energy's Denver Regional Office; and Gary Severson of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, which recently did a regional study on the issue.
"This is kind of like an incredible think-tank dump," Moore said.
The discussion will cover what steps have been taken in other areas, funding opportunities and local wood sources. The forum provides information and a chance for networking, Moore said.
"This is big," she said. "It's very exciting and really interesting."
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