The Bureau of Land Mangement kicked in some additional funding to prevent wildfires sparked by trees and power lines.
On Monday, Aug. 12, BLM announced it would contribute an additional $16,000 to Mountain Parks Electric, Inc. for High Priority Tree Clearing Project funding. The federal agency contributed $40,000 in 2011 and $10,528 in 2012 to help the utilities company remove trees in danger of falling into utility lines.
According to Operations Superintendent Bruce Van Bockren, Mountain Park Electric’s first priority is to keep fire danger in check.
“Every time we cut a tree, it’s one less chance it will start a fire,” he said. “Number two is to keep the continuity of power going, to keep or customers receiving power.”
As part of the BLM award, the utilities provider must match the award by at least 10 percent, although Van Bockren expects to far exceed that obligation. Hazardous tree removal costs around $11,000 to $12,000 a week along power line corridors.
“Any tree outside of our right of way, anything within reaching distance of our line that’s dead, we’re cutting it down,” Van Bockren said. “It puts a lot of burden on Mountain Parks, but it’s worth it.”
After pines killed by the bark beetle have been removed, Mountain Parks Electric must also work to remove stands of aspens and new growth, which quickly sprout to fill clearings.
Mountain Parks Electric has 1,813 miles of line running through private and public lands in Grand, Jackson and Summit Counties. Van Bockren said property owners and land managers have been positive and helpful during the tree removal process.
The utilities provider has also applied for funding from the State of Colorado to aid its tree-removal efforts.
“Anytime grants are available, we will take any help we can get,” Van Bockren said. “As far as money, Mountain Parks Electric is grateful for anything we get.”