With wildfire season already under way, Mark Udall applauded senior administration officials for helping to protect Colorado from wildfire. Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, and the National Interagency Fire Center's Ed Delgado held a conference call to outline the federal government's preparation for the 2012 wildfire season.
During the conference call, the administration officials noted that the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains is one of several areas across the country that are at particular risk due to localized weather and fuel conditions. The federal agencies are coordinating closely with state fire officials and are prepared to move quickly to deploy additional fire crews, trucks and air support, as necessary. They also pointed out that the vast majority of wildfires are human-caused and asked all Americans to stay vigilant on wildfire prevention.
In response to remarks during the conference call, Udall said, "Wildfire is an unavoidable reality of life in the Mountain West, and that's why we need to be prepared. Especially given the drought conditions in Colorado, I'm reassured by the fact that officials at the highest levels of government are involved in coordinating wildfire preparedness and response efforts."
Salazar released a written statement after the conference call that read, "Regions across the country face serious risks of extreme wildfires this year because of the mild winter and low precipitation levels in many areas. Knowing the risks and preparing for the wildfire season is a key part of a successful fire response, and Interior will continue to coordinate closely with federal, state, local and tribal partners to ensure we are ready for any fire scenario."
During the conference call, Salazar acknowledged Udall's joint letter with Senator Michael Bennet calling for a review of federal prescribed burn procedures in light of the Lower North Fork fire last month in Colorado.
"It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to learn from this tragic fire so that we can be better prepared in the future," Udall and Bennet wrote in the letter calling for a review of federal prescribed burn procedures. "We continue to believe that prescribed burns can be an essential tool for effective forest management ... However, we want to be sure that the Department of Interior is ... doing everything in its power to ensure the safety of prescribed burns."
Udall is a leading voice in Congress on the effort to fine-tune efforts to mitigate the impact of wildfire on our communities. Here are some highlights from his efforts:
Udall led a letter to federal agencies urging them to review prescribed burn procedures, following the Lower North Fork Fire.
Udall sent a letter with Governor John Hickenlooper, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Representative Mike Coffman calling on the U.S. Forest Service to conduct a scientific review of the response to the Lower North Fork Fire.
Udall sent a letter to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to express his concerns about whether the agency's aging air tanker fleet is capable of keeping Coloradans safe in a timely and effective manner.
Udall passed a bill to facilitate a land swap between the Sugar Loaf Fire District and the U.S. Forest Service.
Udall announced the preliminary findings from a scientific study on the 2010 Fourmile Canyon fire in Boulder County, which was conducted at Udall's request.
Udall requested a report, which looks at the conditions that contributed to the bark beetle outbreak, the U.S. Forest Service response, ways to address it, and what to expect from the "new forest" as it regenerates.
Udall helped preserve Colorado's timber industry, which is key to healthy forest management, by encouraging the U.S. Forest Service to give struggling timber sale purchasers the option to cancel their timber contracts.
And much more.