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Denver, CO â€“ Choose Outdoors, a national nonprofit based in Colorado and its partners have officially launched a national awareness campaign to educate and inform the public about the mountain pine beetle and its effect on many forests.
For several years, state and federal organizations and officials such as the US Forest Service, Undersecretary of Agriculture Harris Sherman and Senator Mark Udall have fought the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Choose Outdoors is hoping to build on those efforts and help stop the tiny bark beetles that are eating away at Colorado’s forests.
During a recent meeting at the Silver Plume New Earth Pellets Company that processes dead lodgepole pine, Senator Udall said: “I am very excited about this new coalition that is developing around the importance of utilizing the millions of acres of dead trees caused by the mountain pine beetle epidemic. An innovative company like New Earth Pellets is converting dead trees into an affordable, renewable heating source. Using these trees as a source of energy may be the scalable solution we need to mitigate the impacts of the bark-beetle epidemic. Their approach cleans up our forests while promoting Colorado-based energy and local jobs.â€
The infestation of the mountain pine beetle, â€œbark beetle,â€ in Western North America has reached epidemic proportions with more than 50 million acres of brown, dead trees stretching across entire landscapes in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and South Dakota and still spreading. Currently, the devastation now covers more than 3 million acres in Colorado alone.
The impacts of the mountain pine beetle devastation in Colorado are numerous and staggering, including increased potential for catastrophic wildfires, risk to water supply and electric/gas transmission lines, decline of air quality, negative impacts on wildlife and loss of recreation and tourism revenue.
The initiative began when Undersecretary of Agriculture Harris Sherman asked Choose Outdoors to develop and implement strategies that increase public awareness about the impacts the mountain pine beetle epidemic has on forest health, as well as encourage private sector engagement to promote the use of mountain pine beetle wood and assist with mitigation efforts.
At a recent forum in Aspen, Sherman reinforced that point, stating: â€œWe need to start this process of restoration and creating the resiliency that these forests deserve and part of that clearly will be to involved a broad range of folks, including our timber industry, including those who are involved in bio energy because they can certainly be part of the solution.â€â€¨â€¨
Over the last year, Choose Outdoors has worked with the Forest Health Task Force in Summit County and the US Forest Service in creating a Mountain Pine Beetle Draft Communications Plan for the Colorado Bark Beetle Cooperative. In addition, through meetings and conversations with key stakeholders and thought leaders, they have developed a youth-oriented mountain pine beetle education campaign that has been adopted by Summit County teens through SOS Outreach. According to Todd Litzman, Choose Outdoors board member and president of Brandwise, a B2B technology company serving the outdoor industry, the time has come to expand these regional and local efforts to execute a national campaign that combats â€œthe Katrina of the West.â€
The Mountain Pine Beetle National Awareness Campaign will be coordinated by Choose Outdoors in cooperation with 360 Media, and conducted with the support of the USDA Forest Service, New Earth Pellets, Colorado State Forest Service, Colorado State University, The Intermountain Timber Industry Association, Brandwise, Brookfield Residential Properties, the Sierra Club, Greenland Reserve, the Forest Health Task Force, Summit County Homebuilders Association and many others.
ABOUT CHOOSE OUTDOORS
Choose Outdoors was founded in 2008 with help from the National Ski Areas Association, the Outdoor Industry Association, America Outdoors Association (guides and outfitters) and the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. Their mission is to promote outdoor recreation and active lifestyles through support for public lands and waters; recreation infrastructure; and programs connecting Americans to the outdoors. To learn more about Choose Outdoors, please visit www.ChooseOutdoors.org.