Republicans Block Hearing on Bill Critical to Address Colorados Bark Beetle Epidemic
UPDATE: Read this article by the Grand Junction Sentenel
The Rocky Mountain West has been struggling for years to overcome a bark beetle infestation that has drastically altered the visual landscape of Colorado and increased the risk of wildfire. Bark beetles, small insects that attack and kill otherwise healthy trees, have been responsible for the decimation of 2.5 million acres of Colorado's forests. The infestation is a critical public health and safety issue for the people of Colorado and has been called the worst natural disaster our region has seen.
Addressing the impacts of bark beetle damage has been a priority of mine throughout my career in Congress. In August, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and I visited Rocky Mountain National park to hold a field hearing into the impacts of climate change on Colorado's parks, one of which is the spread of the bark beetle. And last winter, I introduced the National Forest Insect and Disease Emergency Act (S. 2798), with Senator Risch, R-Idaho, to give the Forest Service and Interior Department more resources to reduce safety and health threats posed by dead and dying trees.
This issue has begun to receive the attention it deserves. And yesterday we were scheduled to get the first-ever hearing on my bill. Unfortunately, instead, it became a victim of Republican partisan gamesmanship.
Republican leadership, angry over passage of health insurance reform legislation, is using an arcane rule to block Senate hearings. This legislation is incredibly important to the health and safety of Coloradans, and it is very disappointing to see legislation critical to public safety held up over an unrelated issue.
Against the public interest, some Republican Senators have vowed not to cooperate with Democrats for the rest of the year. Further delay on this issue is unacceptable - it prevents the Forest Service from receiving the critical resources they need to protect at-risk Colorado communities.
I was elected to the Senate to represent ALL Coloradans, no matter whether they consider themselves Democrats, Republicans or Independents. I'm working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and trying to find a way to reschedule this hearing. We're heading into summer, and the threat of wildfire is imminent. This is too important to delay. And I hope my colleagues in the Senate will see that this is a matter of public safety that is too important for political games.