Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet today introduced an amendment to the Senate budget resolution to emphasize the importance of supporting a broad range of wildfire-related activities, many of which are currently underfunded.
"When it comes to wildfires, Mother Nature always bats last. But even so, we need to do everything in our power to get ahead of the curve, from reducing fuel loads in our forests to acquiring next-generation air tankers," Udall said. "This amendment brings some Colorado common sense to the federal budget and forcefully underscores that wildfire is a serious and ongoing threat to entire communities and our most precious resource, water. This is a priority that should be reflected in the Senate's 2014 budget, and I urge my colleagues to stand with Coloradans and pass this amendment."
"We have a strong tradition of coming together to aid communities in need following disasters in this country," Bennet said. "But too often, Congress fails to provide the funding we need to prepare for emergencies, to respond to them quickly and to assist communities and victims as they recover. As we face another potentially destructive fire season, Senator Udall and I have introduced this amendment to highlight the need for a strong federal commitment to preventing, suppressing and recovering from wildfires."
The amendment would emphasize that funding wildfire mitigation and preparedness, as well as suppression and recovery, are key priorities in the Senate's budget resolution. The amendment further emphasizes that Congress should offset funding increases for these activities, so we don't add to the federal deficit.
The amendment would also help clarify that work relating to flooding or watershed management that is a direct result of wildfires should also be eligible for federal funding. In some cases, while damage from last year's destructive Colorado fires was eligible for federal relief, the damage from floods directly caused by the fires was not. The Udall-Bennet amendment puts Congress on record in support of that commonsense fix.
Finally, the amendment calls attention to the need to modernize the Forest Service's aging and outdated air tanker fleet. Udall has led the fight to push Congress and the administration to make federal resources available to modernize the air tanker fleet.