Senator’s Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act Included in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan Would Create Jobs, Save Money, and Sustain Economy
Denver – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet surveyed damage to a watershed that flows into Grand Lake and the Blue Ridge prescribed burn area in Grand County yesterday with representatives from Northern Water, Colorado River District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Grand County, the Town of Grand Lake, Three Lakes Watershed Association, Middle Park Conservation District, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Bennet recently re-introduced his Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act to create jobs in the outdoors by investing in forest and watershed restoration. His proposal was included in President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan.
The Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act will provide direct support to local, collaborative efforts to mitigate wildfire, restore habitat, and expand outdoor access. It will also restore areas at high-risk of wildfire, with high priority wildlife habitat, or in the wildland-urban interface––where homes and businesses meet wildland vegetation––to build climate resilience in the West.
“Last year, Colorado faced the three largest wildfires in state history. Across the country the threat of wildfire is growing, which comes at a terrible cost for communities like Grand Lake and Hot Sulphur Springs in Grand County,” said Bennet. “That’s exactly why we wrote the Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act––a comprehensive plan crafted hand in hand with Coloradans to improve forest conditions, reduce wildfire risk to communities, and protect our water supply. In passing this bill we can build climate resilience and create millions of good-paying jobs. With bipartisan support in the House and the support of the Biden Administration, we have a real opportunity to invest in our forests and watersheds and leave them better off for the next generation.”
“The Blue Ridge Forest Health Project is a wonderful example of a community working together with a multitude of partners to take a strategic look at wildfire risk reduction. No one entity can do this alone, which is why a project across all jurisdictions, that is science- and risk-based, will lead to more effective treatments and safer communities. The partners and community members in Grand County should be recognized for sharing in the stewardship of their public and private lands. The continued commitment and support of elected officials such as Senator Bennet and Governor Polis for this work is truly what moves the results from ordinary to extraordinary,” said Frank Beum, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region.
“Senator Bennet appreciated the urgency that Grand Lake faces with fire recovery and mitigation,” said Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron. “We spoke about the funding imperatives for time sensitive projects, including protecting against post-fire flooding and the huge backlog of mitigation work on public and private lands so the impacts of fires in the future are less severe. I thank the senator for his commitment to addressing these critical issues and needs for our community.”
“Having joined Senator Bennet’s visit yesterday to a prescribed burn site on the Arapaho National Forest in Grand County, I was struck by the collaboration and partnership that is starting to take place regarding forest management,” said Grand County Commissioner Merrit Linke. “I believe that we are seeing a culture shift in our federal, state and local partners as we deal with devastating wildfires, impacted watersheds, and destruction of property. This culture shift in how forests are managed is not only out of necessity but also out of research and sound science. A holistic, landscape-based approach to forest management that includes fuels treatment, logging, grazing, and working with public and private partners can both reduce wildfire risks and better protect communities. This is a long term, proactive strategy that will have positive impacts far into the future.”
The Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act would:
- Establish an Outdoor Restoration Fund to support local collaborative efforts to restore forests and watersheds, reduce wildfire risk, clean up public lands, enhance wildlife habitat, remove invasive species, and expand outdoor access. The bill establishes an advisory council of local, industry, conservation, and national experts to advise on funding priorities, coordinate with existing regional efforts, and provide oversight.
- Empower local leaders by making $20 billion directly available to state and local governments, tribes, special districts, and non-profits to support restoration, resilience, and mitigation projects across public, private, and tribal lands. Empowering local leaders that have an ability to bring diverse voices to the table is the path for progress in the West.
- Partner with states and tribes to invest $40 billion in targeted projects to restore forests, improve wildlife habitat and reduce wildfire risk across the country. This investment allows agencies to partner with local stakeholders to improve forest and watershed health and build climate and community resilience. Tackling the backlog of restoration and resilience projects across public, private, and tribal land will sustain our economy and way of life.
- Create or sustain over two million good-paying jobs, primarily in rural areas, to support agriculture and outdoor recreation, while providing an opportunity for communities to address long-standing restoration needs and draw in new business.
- Save landowners and local governments money by investing in wildfire prevention and natural hazard mitigation, which is three to six times more cost effective than recovering from natural disasters like wildfires or post-fire floods.
- Generate over $156 billion in economic output, with a return of up to $15 for every dollar spent on restoration, while upgrading our natural infrastructure for the millions of Americans whose livelihood, health, and wellbeing rely on them.
The Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act is supported by National Wildlife Federation, National Association of State Foresters, The Nature Conservancy, National Wild Turkey Federation, American Forests, National Audubon Society, Family Farm Alliance, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Western Landowners Alliance, Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited, Conservation Legacy, and Mule Deer Foundation.
A leader on forestry and conservation issues for over a decade in the U.S. Senate, Bennet has worked to end fire borrowing and provide the U.S Forest Service with management tools to improve forest and watershed health. In the 2014 Farm Bill, Bennet ensured Congress strengthened the conservation and forestry title for Colorado’s farmers, ranchers, and conservation community. He led the effort to expand Good Neighbor Authority nationwide, following a successful pilot program in Colorado, and expedited treatment of forests affected by insects or disease.
For years, Bennet introduced the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA), which provided the framework for the fire funding fix. Bennet secured the fire funding fix, which ended the destructive practice of fire borrowing and improved how the government pays to fight wildfires, in the 2018 Omnibus. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Bennet led the effort to secure new resources for our national forests, doubling funding for collaborative forest restoration and establishing a new program to support forest health partnerships between the Forest Service and downstream water users.
Bennet’s work on forestry and conservation is informed and inspired by Coloradans’ experiences and ideas. After Colorado suffered the three largest wildfires in state history last year, Bennet convened the Western Climate Resilience Roundtable to develop a collaborative, consensus-driven set of priorities for western climate resilience. One of the groups three priorities was “Supporting healthy soils, forests, rangeland, rivers, and watersheds will make our communities more resilient and help maximize the climate mitigation potential of western landscapes.”
Similarly, in 2014, Bennet convened a Fire and Forestry Summit in Colorado to bring together experts to provide recommendations on how the federal government can better support Colorado's wildfire mitigation and post-fire recovery efforts. From those conversations, Bennet drafted the PREPARE Act, a portion of which became the Wildfire Mitigation Assistance Act, to provide additional resources for communities affected by wildfire. Much of the PREPARE Act, including the entire Wildfire Mitigation Assistance Act, was signed into law in 2018.