Mark Udall criticized the U.S. Senate's decision today to reject an amendment he and Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced, which would have fully funded the U.S. Forest Service's Wildland Fire Management Fund ahead of the 2013 wildfire season. Udall said next year's fire season is coming, whether or not the federal government want to prepare for it. In fact, next year's fire season is expected to be even more severe than the 2012 season that produced the two most destructive wildfires in Colorado history, the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires.
"These additional funds would have ensured that the U.S. Forest Service was prudently and appropriately prepared to help prevent and fight catastrophic wildfires next year in Colorado and across the West. I am concerned that the U.S. Senate has decided to turn a blind eye to these predictable disaster needs," Udall said. "Make no mistake about it: Wildfires threaten entire communities. I am hopeful that 2013 will not be as hazardous as forecast, but these resources would have given Colorado a running start to prepare for next year's wildfire season. Our federal budget is stretched thin and we must confront the deficit. But my common-sense amendment would end up saving taxpayers over the long term and help save lives and property."
Udall and Tester's amendment to the Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Assistance would have restored $653 million to the Forest Service's Wildland Fire Management Account, which funds wildland fire preparedness, suppression, hazardous fuels reduction, fire research and development, and state fire assistance. The amendment would have increased the budget request for the Wildland Fire Management fund to the projected median cost of the 2013 wildfire season, $1.584 billion.
Udall has been a strong advocate of ensuring that Colorado and the nation are appropriately equipped to confront the threat of wildfire -- before, during and after. Earlier this year, Udall led the charge to expedite the U.S. Forest Service's acquisition of seven next-generation air tankers. Udall also has been the leading voice for studying past fires to improve federal efforts to fight and mitigate wildfires.