5:29am

Mon May 28, 2012
Environment

Tax Break for Beetle-Kill Wood Products Expands

As vacationers head to the Colorado mountains this summer, it will be hard to miss the large swaths of dead and dying trees caused by the mountain pine and spruce beetle epidemic. But a bill signed into law earlier this month by Governor Hickenlooper could help speed up the recovery process.

Rep. Laura Bradford (R, Collbran) sponsored the bill, which extends and expands a tax exemption on the sale of products made from wood harvested from beetle-kill trees. The tax break covers items such as furniture - as well as products like firewood, lumber, and sawdust.

Decorator Charise Buckley praised the wood's versatility last year in a Denver Post article:

The distinct look of beetle-kill pine — produced by the infestation — also strikes a chord with home design fans. Beetles invade the bark of mature lodgepole and ponderosa pines and lay eggs. The resulting larvae feed on and ultimately kill the tree.

 

Though the interior wood of the tree remains unchanged and structurally sound, a blue fungus carried by the beetles stains the wood, leaving telltale blue, green and gray streaks.

Bradford says removing beetle-kill trees is critical to future forest health – and with more than 3 million acres of trees destroyed, Colorado needs to approach the problem from every angle.

“We need to incentivize the marketplace to get these trees off the forest lands before there’s a catastrophic fire,” she says.

The current tax exemption applies only to trees killed by the mountain pine beetle – and that was set to expire next July. Bradford’s bill extends the exemption to the year 2020, and expands it to include spruce beetles.

The Colorado Forest Service [PDF] estimates the value of both kinds of beetle-kill wood next fiscal year at nearly $22 million.