Full Colorado Delegation Urges USFS to Restore Colorado Fire Prevention Funds
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Each year, the Mountain West region is threatened by
wildfires that scorch thousands of acres of National Forests and
grasslands. However, earlier this year, under the authority granted in
the Continuing Resolution signed into law by the President to fund the
government for the remainder of 2007, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS)
cut funding to Colorado’s Region Two by $4.3 million. The result could
reduce on-the-ground management of bark beetles, hazardous fuels and
forest health needs.
In a letter yesterday to U.S. Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell, United States Senators Ken Salazar and Wayne Allard and U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette, Doug Lamborn, Marilyn Musgrave, Ed Perlmutter, John Salazar, Tom Tancredo and Mark Udall asked USFS to prevent this short sighted management move by immediately restoring the funds by drawing from the Chief’s Reserve Fund or excess Northwest Forest Plan funding.
“The fact is that not enough is being done,” the bipartisan group noted in their letter to Kimbell. “The need for increased funding is apparent.” The full text of their letter can be viewed by clicking here.
“USFS shouldn’t balance its books by putting Colorado at risk,” said Senator Salazar. “Last year, barely one-in-five NEPA approved acres in Colorado received treatments. Bark beetles and persistent drought are increasing the need to conduct hazardous fuels projects to protect our local communities and watersheds. Cutting corners is not acceptable.”
“Many folks rightfully call Colorado the ‘Headwaters State’ because we are the headwaters for four regional watersheds,” said Allard. “Water that runs out of Colorado eventually supplies most of the West; the Forest Service needs to recognize that when they short change forests in Colorado they put the entire Western United States at risk. If the Forest Service restores funding to Colorado they can take a step toward averting the potentially dangerous fire season that is approaching.”
“We simply cannot wait for fire season to begin again before Colorado receives these critical funds,” said Chief Deputy Whip Diana DeGette (D-CO). “In recent years Colorado has seen terrible drought, insect infestation, higher temperatures, and drying soils. To protect our communities from wildfire, we need more resources on the ground and we need them now.”
“Colorado faces a tremendous risk during the summer because of forest fires,” said Rep. Lamborn. “This existing funding is necessary to effectively manage the serious problem our state faces with regards to proper forest management and the critically important protection of Colorado families and land.”
“The threat of forest fires in Colorado is very real. It has been exasperated by the bark beetle infestation, which shows no signs of slowing down,” said U.S. Rep Marilyn Musgrave (CO-04). “This is not the time to cut funding for programs that aim to cut down the threat that forest fires pose to our state.”
“The reality is that a dry summer and fall would be devastating to our state and region because any damage from wildfires could be made worse by the bark beetle problem. It is critical for the Administration to act responsibly and restore funding to Colorado to mitigate these damages,” said U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter.
“To fully understand how vitally important this forest funding is, all one has to do is drive through the mountains on I-70 to see masses of trees turn from green to brown as they die from the bark beetle epidemic that is destroying our forests and threatening our rural communities,” U.S. Rep. John Salazar (CO-3) said. “Because there is no easy cure for the bark beetle epidemic, prevention and management of the disease is imperative at this point. This funding will help that cause.”
“As demonstrated by the Hayman fire that took place in my district, it is clear that there are some unresolved forest management issues in Colorado. It would be horrible policy for the United States Forest Service to cut funding in Colorado when the bark beetle problem continues to be a threat as the dangerous fire season approaches,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Littleton)
“Colorado and the rest of the Rocky Mountain region face serious forest-management problems, including the beetle epidemic, and it’s vital that the Administration not short-change our region as it allocates Forest Service funds,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Udall (D-Eldorado Springs).
In 2006 approximately 74,000 acres of USFS land received hazardous fuels treatment. However, as of 2006, Colorado had over 280,000 acres of treatments that are approved under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), with another 235,000 acres of treatments in NEPA analysis. In addition, there is another 12,000 acres ready for timber sales and forest health treatments, but lack of funding threatens to keep those projects shelved. These needs continue to grow as the bark beetle infestation spreads and outbreaks on Colorado’s Front Range create even more hazardous conditions and needs in this expansive wildland-urban interface area.
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