Udall, Bennet Push to Preserve Health of Forests Through Expansion of Colorado Success Story

Good Neighbor Forestry Act of 2009 Would Expand Program in Colorado to Western States to Improve Forest Health

Washington, DC - Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, U.S. Senators from Colorado, are working to protect the health and safety of Colorado's forests by pushing for continued cooperation between state and federal forestry agencies and efficient use of resources through the Good Neighbor Forestry Act of 2009.

Udall and Bennet are original cosponsors of the bill, which expands a Colorado forestry success story to Western states (west of the 100th meridian) by granting the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management ability to contract with state foresters, who often have more incentive and manpower to implement forest health projects in a timely manner.

Under the bill, federal agencies would be responsible for NEPA documentation, project planning and analysis, while states would be responsible for project implementation.

"When it comes to fighting wildfires and keeping our forests healthy, we need to look at all options on the table," Senator Udall said. "The Good Neighbor Authority Program has been a success in Colorado already because state foresters have close ties to their communities and an incentive to get work done efficiently. This bill will enable us to expand those efforts in our state and throughout the region, and it will pay off in healthier forests."

"If we're going to keep Colorado's forests healthy, it only makes sense that we give local communities and state foresters with a stake in the outcome a say in the process," said Bennet. "Here in Colorado, we've already seen how bringing state and federal foresters together can lead to healthier, more vibrant forests. It's a common-sense approach to an all-too common problem, particularly for Western communities. And it will help make Colorado's forest health success story a success story for the entire Rocky Mountain West."

Colorado already has benefited significantly from the Good Neighbor Authority Program, which was first established as a pilot program for the state in the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2001. State forestry agencies have been able to reduce risk of wildfires, allow for more fuel treatment projects that give firefighters greater space to occupy while combating fires and remove impediments to cross-boundary watershed restoration activities, resulting in greater protective and restorative accomplishments.

The Good Neighbor Forestry Act of 2009 has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY).