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Mill Owners Want Better Logging Contracts From Forest Service

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An employee working at Hester Log and Lumber (credit: CBS)

An employee working at Hester Log and Lumber (credit: CBS)

KREMMLING, Colo. (CBS4) – Many in the timber industry are saying enough isn’t being done to clean up beetle kill trees in Colorado’s forests. Some Coloradans are turning the dead tree problem into profit, but they say they need more help.

Kent Hester has owned a custom wood mill south of Kremmling for nearly 30 years.

“Our grandchildren and their children are not going to know the forest like we knew 10 or 15 years ago,” Hester said.

Hester Log and Lumber gets nearly only lodgepole pine, and as the years of decay from the pine beetle epidemic continue, that wood is getting harder to use.

“Now it’s about 55 or 60 percent, and that’s the result, that’s why we have all this fire wood piled up here,” Hester said.

So this week he was trying to convince Sen. Mark Udall that better logging contracts and operations are needed.

“I know the job looks overwhelming but it’s really not, and it comes down to funding,” Hester said. “Thinning also produces a lot of work.”

“This is an important operation to maintain the health of our forest and enhance the health of our forest, and in a year where we’re seeing large fires, real threats to our water sheds and our communities,” Udall said.

Hester says there’s a slowdown right now to get wood because Forest Service contracts take a long time to get, and only come in massive volumes of trees.

“The hang up has been that we want to protect our wildlife and our water and our soils, and we’ve been very thorough in doing that, and yet it takes time,” Udall said. “How do we do this more quickly, keep faith with the environmental values?”

“I think we need to get back to some real sound forest management practices,” Hester said.

Udall says he’s included some provisions in the farm bill that would expedite forest health projects, but that bill is currently sitting in the House of Representatives waiting approval.

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