Steamboat Springs U.S. Rep. John Salazar had several questions Monday as he pointed toward recent logging operations that removed beetle-killed trees from the Burgess Creek area.
John Twitchell had answers.
Salazar is a Democrat from the San Luis Valley. He asked Twitchell, a district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service, whether he thought the mountain pine beetle epidemic was slowing down in Steamboat Springs.
“Yes, I do,” Twitchell said. “They’re eating themselves out of lodge and home.”
Salazar joined Twitchell, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Ron Lindroth, Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble, and other members of the state Forest Service on a tour of the recent logging operations in the Burgess Creek watershed. The Forest Service staff pointed out the evolution of the logging efforts, including the new pine trees that were starting to grow in previously logged areas.
“Here, you can see the whole picture,” Twitchell said.
Lindroth said they chose Burgess Creek as the site to show Salazar because it represented a collaboration of several groups including private landowners, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and the U.S. Forest Service.
“The biggest success was getting the entities to agree to work together,” Lindroth said. “It was a great collaboration.”
Salazar saw firsthand the result of the operations that were partly funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He was impressed by the pace and magnitude of recent efforts in Steamboat to remove the beetle-infested pine trees.
“A lot of times public officials are criticized because the public thinks money is being thrown away,” he said. “But you look at projects like this, and you see how useful the funding has been.”
While at the logging sites, Salazar discussed future operations to remove the beetle-killed trees with Twitchell, who reminded the congressman that the issue still is very emotional for Steamboat residents and visitors.
“It’s a devastating, emotional thing,” Twitchell said. “You have people coming to visit their favorite national park, and they ask why you had to cut the trees. We tell them we had to.”
Twitchell and Lindroth hope the removal of beetle-killed pine trees continues to be a priority for state and national politicians.
“The fact that he took the time with all the other issues he’s facing says a lot,” Lindroth said. “It keeps the issue in the forefront. Something like this could easily get swallowed by health care or other national issues.”
“We hope he will be back,” Twitchell added.