Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is urging Senate appropriators to support resources for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs and for wildfire prevention, suppression and mitigation efforts.
In a letter late last week, Bennet wrote to Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.
“It is my hope that the subcommittee will provide robust funding for PILT and SRS in the Interior appropriations measure, so that Colorado communities will continue to have the support they need from these programs,” Bennet wrote. “We also need more funding to make sure that wildfires are quickly contained and suppressed when they do break out. Targeted dollars for suppression efforts, like preparedness and mitigation funding ultimately pay for themselves many times over.”
PILT provides federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal land within their boundaries. Communities can use PILT resources for critical services, such as police, fire protection and emergency response programs. SRS provides resources for public schools, road improvement and maintenance projects, and forest restoration and improvement projects in and around National Forests.
Bennet led efforts in the Senate last year to pass a bill that continued funding for PILT and SRS and remains an advocate for extending the life of the programs.
As Colorado continues to recover from last year’s devastating wildfires and prepares for the upcoming season, it is vital to provide the Forest Service with the means necessary to prevent, suppress and combat wildfires.
Bennet has taken several steps to help Colorado and other states prevent and fight wildfires. A member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he fought for the reauthorization of stewardship contracting and strengthened conservation programs in the 2012 Farm Bill, which was passed by the Senate last year but did not receive a vote in the House. He has called for the modernization of our air tanker fleet and led efforts to secure Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) resources to help Colorado communities recover from the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.
Click here to read the letter from Bennet to Reed and Murkowski.