(Feb. 8) – This morning, the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved a bipartisan memorial by Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillion, calling on Congress to fund wildfire mitigation in Colorado. Currently, the U.S. Forest Service borrows from funds for mitigation efforts in order to fight active fires, which means mitigation efforts have less and less funding as more fires spread and are more expensive to manage.
“Our responsibility is to protect our firefighters and our valuable natural resources: from our water sheds, to our outdoor recreation, to our beautiful Colorado forests,” said Rep. Hamner. “And we can’t do that without federal funding. We heard today that each dollar invested in mitigation efforts has four times the impact in preventing catastrophic fires and it’s time we dedicate funding specifically for mitigation.”
The memorial comes out of the Wildfire Matters Review Committee, which discussed the current management practice of suppressing wildfires instead of mitigating risks. Without dedicated funding for mitigation efforts, Colorado faces increased forest density and greater frequency of catastrophic wildfires.
This funding is especially important to Colorado, which has the second highest percentage of households that are at high or extreme risk from wildfires of any state in the nation. And as the memorial states: “Colorado’s forests are increasingly susceptible to forest fires, with an average of about 40,000 acres burned per year from 2004 through 2007 but an average of more than 140,000 acres burned per year from 2008 through 2014.”