Western senators write to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, urge him to utilize timber industry to reduce fuel loads in wildfire-prone areas, expand timber management program and prioritize timber sales

WASHINGTON , November 8, 2012 (press release) – Western Senators Ask Agency to Let Private Sector Create Jobs, Improve Fire Safety

Mark Udall and a bipartisan group of western senators asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support proactive forest management, utilizing the timber industry, to reduce fuel loads in wildfire-prone areas and improve community safety throughout the West. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), John Thune (R-S.D.) signed onto Udall’s letter.

"We are at a critical juncture. With historically overgrown forests, a continuing drought, vast stretches of beetle-kill forest and more people living in fire zones, we need to work expeditiously to promote ecological restoration. … We write to express our support for treating more acres in our states – particularly in the wildland-urban interface, and backcountry areas with critical infrastructure. Specifically, we ask you to consider expanding the timber management program, and prioritize timber sales," the senators wrote. "This capacity is critical to support local economies, safeguard drinking water supplies, and protect communities. … There has never been a better time to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, restore forest health, and create jobs while also helping us convert hazardous fuels into energy."

The Rocky Mountain West experienced one of the most severe fire seasons on record in 2012. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the Rocky Mountain region, which includes Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and most of South Dakota and Wyoming, endured 5,152 fires that scorched 1,186,965 acres.

Click HERE to read the senators’ letter.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/112620780/Letter-to-USDA-on-Forestry-Issues

Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has worked to help the private sector create jobs and turn forest management into profits. Udall recently visited Mountain Valley Timber, located in Saguache, which has benefited from his efforts.

Udall also has been an outspoken advocate of preparing Colorado communities for the ongoing threat of wildfire. According to a U.S. Forest Service study of the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire in Boulder County – a study Udall requested – the condition of the Home Ignition Zone, the design, materials and the maintenance of the home and the area 100 feet around it, is critical to determining if a home will survive a wildfire.

Colorado’s senior senator also has actively pressed the federal government to study the recent record-setting fires that burned along the Front Range in an effort to improve how federal, state and local agencies respond to future blazes. Udall recently requested that the U.S. Forest Service study the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires to understand the social, economic, organizational and ecological impacts of both fires as well as to understand how to mitigate the impact of future fires.

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