(From Left to Right: Senator Michael Bennet, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack)
Denver – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Colorado U.S. Representative Joe Neguse, and other state and local leaders showed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack the wildfire recovery and climate smart agriculture efforts happening across northern Colorado.
Bennet, Vilsack, Polis, and Neguse visited two sites in the Cameron Peak Fire area in Larimer County -- the largest fire in Colorado history, burning 208,913 acres within the county. Bennet, Vilsack, and Polis continued the day at Olander Farms and Root Shoot Malting to tour the malting facility and barley field. After, they held a roundtable discussion on climate change mitigation and adaptation, drought, conservation and soil health, the agricultural workforce, and other issues.
Bennet made the case for long-term investments in restoring our nation’s forests to protect our watersheds and communities from catastrophic wildfires through his Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act. He also discussed ongoing efforts to support climate smart practices on working agricultural lands. His outdoor restoration proposal was included in President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan.
“We have to protect our forests and invest in our watersheds —these are national assets. Secretary Vilsack understands that, and I'm glad he was here to see Colorado’s efforts and the forest health and wildfire recovery partnerships that exist in our state,” said Bennet. “Secretary Vilsack also understands that farmers and ranchers should be at the heart of American climate policy. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Vilsack and the Biden Administration to support Colorado producers as they continue to deal with drought and wildfire.”
"I was proud to join Sen. Bennet and Rep. Neguse today to meet with Secretary Vilsack and discuss the particular challenges that Colorado faces from wildfires,” said Polis. “Our magnificent outdoors are key contributors to our Colorado way of life and it’s important to discuss how we can care for them for generations to come.”
“I was grateful for the opportunity to join Governor Polis, Secretary Vilsack, Senator Bennet and our county officials today to tour the Cameron Peak Fire recovery sites in Larimer County. The Cameron Peak fire damaged many homes and small businesses and put tremendous strain on our firefighters and emergency management officials. It’s crucial that we meet these historic wildfires with a proportionate response. That’s why we’ve proposed the launch of the 21st Century Civilian Climate Corps to bring needed resources to wildfire resiliency and watershed recovery projects and increase workforce capacity to support our wildland firefighters and wildfire suppression efforts,” said Neguse. “Through our work on the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus and as Chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands we hope to continue this work to meet these challenges and support our communities, just this week we led a bipartisan letter calling for increased funding for our forest service. Today, I was grateful for the opportunity to listen, and to learn. My hope is that together we can find solutions to support our communities and restore our forests.”
“Agricultural producers play a critical role in addressing the climate and conservation challenges facing our state and I am proud of the visionary, collaborative efforts of Colorado's farmers and ranchers in stewarding the iconic and working lands of our state,” said Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg. “I'm appreciative for the opportunity for our agricultural leaders to discuss these challenges, and Colorado's leadership, directly with Secretary Vilsack, Senator Bennet, and Governor Polis.”
(Bennet and Vilsack in Northern Colorado)
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.
Earlier this year, Bennet introduced the bipartisan Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act with U.S. Representatives Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) to invest in forest and watershed restoration while creating millions of good-paying jobs.
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.