Speaking at the 2012 Forest Summit today, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) focused on forest management and wildfire prevention efforts, and urged "cooperative problem solving' to address the challenges facing Colorado forests.
Remarks of Rep. Scott Tipton as prepared for delivery:
"I want to thank Governor Hickenlooper and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources for organizing today's event and for their outstanding leadership on forest management issues. As a strong believer that forest management policy is best determined at the state level, I can't think of a more appropriate forum in which to have this discussion. I also want to thank our Colorado Senators for their comments and for the leadership that they have shown.
This group needs no reminder that 2012 has been one of the worst years on record for wildfires in the State of Colorado. More than 379,597 acres have burned in Colorado this year, destroying 653 homes and taking six lives. Amidst this terrible tragedy, brave men and women risked their lives to fight these raging fires, and officials at the state and federal level rose to the challenge to stop the destruction and begin mitigation of that which was lost.
The effort and investment required fighting a fire and restoring the land and communities affected is a harsh reminder that it is far more prudent and cost effective to responsibly manage our forests in advance of tragedy. Taking proactive steps to reduce the risk of wildfires by addressing those conditions known to cause them will undoubtedly reduce fires of the magnitude experienced this year in the future.
In May I joined with Chairmen from the House Subcommittee on Parks, Forests, and Public Lands as well as Water and Power to hold an oversight hearing in Montrose on the current regulatory framework for federally managed forests and how we can improve on that framework. I see here today many of the faces from that highly informative hearing and I want to thank those of you who joined for your contribution and your comments. I believe that local communities know their forests best and know what needs to be done to restore them to healthy conditions. For that reason, I introduced legislation following the Montrose hearing which would give state governors, county commissioners, and tribes a greater voice in identifying high risk areas and determining the appropriate measures to mitigate that risk.
This legislation builds on the bipartisan Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 and provides the tools necessary to safeguard communities, water supplies, species habitat, and promote a healthy natural environment. Expanding on the tools in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act which have proven to be effective, the Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act can help reduce the cost imposed on taxpayers due to litigation, expedite emergency mitigation procedures, and restore our forests before they go up in flames, when the costs are far greater. My legislation prioritizes conservation and will help reduce the investment required of taxpayers by making public private partnerships more feasible.
The participants of Colorado's Forest Summit have a long history of cooperative problem solving. Today's event gives me hope that we will once again be able to come together to improve forest conditions so that future generations have the same opportunities that we have to enjoy clean air and water, abundant wildlife and vegetation, and all of the benefits that a healthy forest provides."
Background on the Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act:
The Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act (H.R. 6089) would allow governors, in consultation with county commissioners from affected counties as well as affected Indian tribes, to designate high-risk areas and develop emergency hazardous fuels reduction projects for those areas, enabling states to better protect their communities, species habitats, water supplies, and natural areas and help ameliorate those conditions that lead to unhealthy forests and devastating wildfires. The bill has cleared the House Natural Resources Committee and is awaiting a vote in the House.
In addition to providing states with increased discretion over the management of lands within their borders, the Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act would allow treatment projects to move forward under the streamlined review processes set forth in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003. The Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act protects all valid and existing rights on applicable lands and preserves the current protection framework for wilderness areas and national monuments. This legislation does not create any new federal spending and has been widely endorsed.