Colorado senators ask US Forest Service to investigate recent wildfires to help reduce social, economic, ecological impacts of future blazes
October 11, 2012
– The Federal Agency Study Will Look at Effect of Beetle Kill on Fires
Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall requested today that the U.S. Forest Service study the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires in an effort to understand the social, economic, organizational and ecological impacts of these fires and better mitigate the impact of future blazes.
“Studying this summer’s devastating wildfires can help us understand how to better protect people and their property, predict what conditions can lead to these types of fires and prevent some of the devastating damage we saw,” Bennet said. “Coloradans are increasingly vulnerable to wildfires and we must do everything we can to be prepared in the future.”
“Wildfire is a part of life for many Coloradans — and increasingly so. Roughly 40 percent of Coloradans live in the most wildfire-prone areas of our state, those areas between cities and forested lands,” Udall said. “Because so many communities live in these wildfire-prone areas, it is critical that we study past wildfires to prepare for future blazes. This study will help our state and federal firefighting and forest management agencies work together and adopt a strong, balanced approach to help protect our communities and keep Coloradans safe."
Udall and Bennet’s request for a study, which can be read by clicking HERE, asks the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service to help instruct policymakers, firefighters and forest management agencies to better protect our state from the impacts of future fires.
Udall and Bennet have worked to leverage federal resources during and after the devastating 2012 fires throughout Colorado. They wrote a letter to the president signed by the Colorado delegation to help secure a swift federal disaster declaration as the fires raged throughout the state. Both Udall and Bennet also wrote to the Administration to help secure SBA disaster loans for affected areas of the state, and worked closely with Colorado Springs leaders to secure a $100,000 competative grant to help the region recover from the economic impacts of the Waldo Canyon Fire. Udall and Bennet also are working to secure emergency funding for the Emergency Watershed Protection program, which provides support for rehabilitating and restoring watersheds in areas affected by wildfires and other natural disasters.
Udall hosted a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in Colorado Springs earlier this summer. Udall also hosted an after-action review with military and U.S. Forest Service officials to encapsulate the lessons learned from the Waldo Canyon Fire.
Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, fought for the reauthorization of stewardship contracting in the committee’s initial draft of the 2012 Farm Bill. Stewardship contracting authority is a critical tool for the Forest Service to implement projects that restore and maintain healthy forest ecosystems, and provide business opportunities and local employment. Colorado is currently among the states with the most stewardship contracts underway, with 34 projects totaling almost 12,000 acres.
Bennet and Udall has been vocal advocates for passage of the Farm Bill, which passed the Senate in June with bipartisan support. The bill includes vital resources to assist farmers and ranchers suffering from the drought and wildfire damage.