Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today joined Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) as a cosponsor of their bipartisan amendment to the 2014 U.S. Senate budget to increase the funding availability for fighting wildfires and modernizing the air tanker fleet by $100 million -- critical funds that will help prevent fires from growing and threatening lives and homes in the West.
"Last summer, fires in our state destroyed thousands of acres of forest land, hundreds of homes, and tragically took the lives of several Coloradans," Bennet said. "With persistent dry weather conditions in the West, wildfires remain a major threat to Colorado's forests and tourism economy. The federal budget should reflect that critical resources to mitigate these disasters and to respond quickly to the devastation in the aftermath are a priority."
"Wildfire threatens entire communities in Colorado and across the West. That's why I am proud to partner with Sen. Barrasso to introduce this common-sense, bipartisan and deficit-neutral amendment to the 2014 budget," Udall said. "We need to reduce the federal budget deficit, but not investing in firefighting efforts and mitigation will levy an unacceptably steep and entirely avoidable cost upon Colorado and the West. Effectively fighting and containing wildfires before they become mega-fires is critical to protecting lives, homes, businesses and our most precious resource: water. The recent mega-fires we have seen in Colorado are harbingers of what's to come if we do not prioritize firefighting resources."
"Wyoming and other Western communities continue to be threatened by wildfires stemming from excessive fuel loads and beetle killed timber. It's crucial that we have the necessary resources available to contain them," Barrasso said. "Our amendment would ensure that firefighting resources are given top priority. This will help give Federal land agencies the tools they need to save lives, homes, and property across the country."
The amendment would require the Senate Appropriations Committee to prioritize this suppression funding and reduce spending on lower priority items in 2014.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is a co-sponsor of the amendment.