As High Summer Temperatures Near, Udall, Bennet Fight for Wildfire Prevention Resources for Colorado

Udall, Bennet Push to Prioritize Funding for Wildfire Prevention Programs in Mountain Pine Beetle Afflicted Regions of Colorado

Washington, DC - With the dry, summer season fast approaching, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, U.S. Senators for Colorado, today announced their push for resources to prevent severe wildfires and protect Colorado communities and water supplies, especially in areas affected by the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

Udall and Bennet are pushing for special funding priority for Federal Land Management Agencies-the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Parks Service- to boost wildfire prevention programs, especially in areas hard-hit by the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

"State and local budgets are already stretched to the limit. The federal government needs to step up to the plate and make wildfire prevention on federal lands a priority - especially in light of the bark beetle epidemic," Senator Udall said. "This is a critical public safety issue. I've worked for many years to find solutions to control bark beetle damage and help protect Colorado's citizens from wildfires. And I know special funding priority for wildfire prevention on federal lands in Colorado can make a big difference."

"Wildfires can cause massive damage to homes and communities in Colorado, and we need to do everything we can to prevent them," Bennet said. "Local and state agencies need all the help they can get to keep our forests healthy and protect mountain communities. These programs can put Coloradans to work preventing and controlling forest fires that just devastate a region when they happen."

The mountain pine beetle and fire are the two biggest natural disturbances in forests in Colorado and the West. There appears to be an increased probability of wildfire or high "fire hazard" after a bark beetle outbreak in part because the beetle influences overall forest health and "fuel load," the amount of material susceptible to fire in a particular area.

Specifically, the senators are seeking funding for programs that support fuel reduction efforts on federal lands where approved projects are waiting to be funded and for programs that facilitate fuel reduction efforts on non-federal lands. Of particular importance in preventing wildfires and improving forest health are the State Fire Assistance Program, which provides technical assistance for fire prevention and control, and for the Community Fire Protection Program, which assists communities with local fire protection planning, education, and fire plan implementation.

The senators' funding request was made in a letter to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior and the Environment Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander for the 2010 fiscal year. The State Fire Assistance Program had $78 million in funding in the 2009 fiscal year, and The Community Fire Protection Program was authorized at $35 million per year from 2002-07, but has never been actually funded.