Bennet is Pushing For Robust Forest Restoration and Wildfire Resilience Investments in the Build Back Better Budget
Durango –– Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources Subcommittee, met with local leaders and discussed current forestry projects near Durango that would benefit from his Outdoor Restoration Partnerships Act, a $60 billion investment in forest restoration, wildfire prevention, and watershed protection. Bennet is calling for the proposal to be included in the Build Back Better budget.
Bennet visited the Lion’s Den Overlook with leaders from Durango, La Plata County, the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado State Forest Service, the Durango Fire Protection District, Mountain Studies Institute, Four Rivers Resilient Forest Collaborative, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Timber Age Systems, and the Southwest Conservation Corps.
“Forests and watersheds are essential infrastructure that sustains our economy and way of life in Colorado, but for too long, Congress has failed to meaningfully invest in them,” said Bennet. “The Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act would make a historic investment to improve forest health, restore watersheds, expand access to the outdoors, and provide millions of jobs across the Mountain West. This legislation enjoys broad support from leaders in Durango, La Plata County, and across Colorado, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure it is included in the Build Back Better budget.”
"There is no greater threat to our communities than that of catastrophic wildfire. We here in La Plata County have a very engaged public working across many boundaries including land ownership, governments and otherwise. We know how to get work done in the WUI and have been proving that for a long time. However, we cannot do it alone which is why Senator Michael Bennet's addition of wildfire funding to the budget bill is so crucial. Bringing our forests back to health is as an important goal as investing in our highways, water systems and bridges especially in this era of long-term climate change resulting in a drying west. Now is the time to invest in the things that will create healthier landscapes, watersheds and communities -- and invest at a level that will make a difference," said Marsha Porter-Norton, La Plata County Commissioner.
“The City of Durango continues to thrive with collaborative efforts that improve the health of our community and forests. Federal funds and partnerships are key to successful efforts now and for generations to come,” said Amy Schwarzbach, City of Durango Natural Resources Manager.
"The Staff at MSI is extremely grateful for Senator Bennet’s continued commitment to the issues of rural southwest Colorado. Overlooking the Animas Valley, he listened to the concerns around wildfire, the need to apply science to support decision making, and expressed support for funding a coordinated approach to management built around the values of the community, identified through collaborative conversations, that will support social, economic, and ecologic resilience," said Aaron Kimple, Program Director of Forest Health, Mountain Studies Institute.
In March 2021, President Joe Biden included a commitment to invest in restoration and resilience consistent with Bennet’s Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act in his American Jobs Plan.
As Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Bennet’s decade of work on forestry and conservation is informed by Coloradans’ experiences and ideas.
In the 2014 Farm Bill, Bennet led the development of the conservation and forestry title, which expanded Good Neighbor Authority nationwide, following a successful pilot program in Colorado, and expedited treatment of forests affected by insects or disease. Bennet also helped write the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which has funded multiple projects in Colorado, including in the Upper Colorado Headwaters and in the Lower Gunnison.
For years, Bennet introduced the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA), which provided the framework for the fire funding fix that Bennet secured in the 2018 Omnibus. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Bennet led the effort to maintain full conservation funding, place a greater emphasis on climate and drought, and secure new resources for our national forests. Bennet also helped expand funding for voluntary water conservation efforts through USDA conservation programs.
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 group’s top 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.”
The Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act is supported by the 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, Mule Deer Foundation, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, American Fly Fishing Trade Association.