State House to Congress: Prevent Wildfires

(Feb. 10) – This morning, the House approved a bipartisan memorial by Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, to call on Congress to fund wildfire mitigation in Colorado. Currently, the U.S. Forest Service borrows from mitigation funding in order to fight fires, which means mitigation efforts have less and less funding as more fires spread and are more expensive to manage.

“Currently, mitigation is an afterthought, so this is sending a message to congress that yes, it’s important to fight fires, but it is even more important to prevent and mitigate the scope and severity of fires,” said Rep. Hamner. “We heard from the director of Fire Prevention and Control that we shouldn’t be competing for resources, we heard from firefighters who are putting their lives at risk to save our forests. And we also heard from the Colorado Water Congress about the importance of mitigation to protect our water.”

“I live in a district that’s been horrifically impacted by forest fires and our community is spending a lot of money that we don’t have on fighting those fires,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango. “We could use some help out here. We have a lot of businesses, a lot of homes, and a lot of people who depend on having good, clean, healthy forests.”

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.”

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