Senate Homeland Security Committee Discusses Training, Mitigation Assistance
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today welcomed the continued focus on federal wildfire mitigation and firefighter training programs in a hearing held by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The panel heard from local, state, and federal officials about how Congress can help boost fire prevention and response efforts.
“We have a very real need in Colorado and throughout the West to boost resources for wildfire mitigation and preparedness,” Bennet said. “A saner approach to wildfire management, one that prioritizes mitigation and preparedness on the front-end, will help us save resources in the long run. These discussions will help us consider innovative ideas to get us there.”
Bennet has pushed to devote more resources to wildfire mitigation in order to reduce the cost of suppression, damage to property, and risk to lives. Last November, he chaired a hearing in the Senate Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources to bring attention to shrinking budgets for mitigation efforts. According to the Congressional Budget Office, every $1 in wildfire mitigation funding saves $5 in future disaster losses.
Last year, Bennet also introduced a bipartisan, deficit-neutral bill that would award competitive grants to states for priority wildfire mitigation and preparedness projects on federal, state, and private land. He also successfully secured several major forest health provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill: the National Forest and Insect Disease Act, which would prioritize the treatment of national forest land damaged by insect and disease, and his Permanent Stewardship Contracting Reauthorization Act, which would permanently reauthorize stewardship contracting, an important tool that allows the USFS to partner with private businesses and individuals to help thin trees and reduce fuel loads.