Oct 252009
 
Authors: Rachel Childs

Citing the worst decline in the lumber industry, exacerbated by the widespread beetle kill problem in Colorado, Colorado State Forest Service officials are looking to a $10.7 million jump start in the form of federal stimulus money to stay afloat.

Applications have been flowing into the service from industry entities across the state, and a forest service panel began reviewing them late last week. Officials said it would release its decisions this week.

The money, part of a national forest service package of $1.5 billion, will be directed toward job creation and retention for forest service districts across the state.

Four committees made up of CSFS officials and will meet later this month to review proposals from organizations from the across the country looking to implement forest service projects in the 17 Colorado districts that the program oversees, with a strong focus on the Front Range.

The grants are divided into two separate categories:

About $6.25 million will go to programs focused on forest restoration and fuels mitigation, and

About $4.75 million will go to programs focused on wildfire prevention and wood manufacturing industries in Colorado.

Joe Duda, a lumber industry expert with CSFS, said the stimulus funds will indirectly liquidate many of Colorado’s businesses, including those in the construction industry.

The service, which is commissioned through the Warner College of Natural Resources, oversees fire prevention, forest management, education and urban forestry throughout the state.

Duda, who has worked with forest products for more than 34 years, said the economic downturn has reduced wood production and manufacturing more than any other recession in his memory.

“I haven’t seen this severe of a decline in my entire career,” he said.

Colorado imports an estimated 90 percent of its wood from other states and Canada.

Lumber consumption in the United States, over the last four years, has been cut in half.

“The industry has not been wealthy for the past few years,” said Katherine Timm, CSFS’s chief spokesperson.

To date, more than 22 proposals have been submitted for wood utilization from districts across the state for projects, including wildfire protection and forest health projects, according the CSFS Web site. Overall, the CSFS has received 52 project proposals.

Officials hope the jobs to be created for locally based forest service agencies will reduce the industry’s carbon footprint as fewer services will be imported from across the country.

The comprehensive proposals are required to disclose the scope of each project, including the number of communities they will benefit and project timelines.

Along with three out-of-state foresters and a western governing representative, the committees will choose approximately eight to 12 programs overall to receive funds, said Terrie Craven, the program coordinator.

The CSFS will be required to provide monthly job creation reports to federal officials.

Staff writer Rachel Childs can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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