Delegation Calls for More Fire Funding

The Colorado congressional delegation is urging the Bush administration to restore $4.3 million to the U.S. Forest Service budget for forest fire amelioration and management.

Citing drought, fuel buildup and bark beetle infestation, the bipartisan group of seven congressmen and two senators, wrote a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Gail Kimball, saying, “The fact is that not enough is being done. The need for increased funding is apparent.”There are about 21.3 million acres of forested land in Colorado, covering nearly one-third of the state’s surface. Nearly three-quarters of the forest is government-owned. In 2006, about 74,000 acres of Forest Service land received treatment to reduce the hazardous fuel load. The funds the delegation are asking for were cut from the 2007 continuing budget resolution that President Bush signed in February.

“USFS shouldn’t balance its books by putting Colorado at risk,” said Democratic Senator Ken Salazar. “Last year, barely one-in-five NEPA approved acres in Colorado received treatments. Bark beetles and persistent drought are increasing the need to conduct hazardous fuels projects to protect our local communities and watersheds. Cutting corners is not acceptable.”

“The threat of forest fires in Colorado is very real. It has been exacerbated by the bark beetle infestation, which shows no signs of slowing down,” said U.S. Rep Marilyn Musgrave. “This is not the time to cut funding for programs that aim to cut down the threat that forest fires pose to our state.”