Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced legislation today to permanently reauthorize Stewardship Contracting authority for the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The contracts support public-private partnerships that create Colorado jobs, reduce fuel loads on public lands and allow the private sector to turn the problem of excess biomass into profit.
"As the threat of more wildfires continues to loom over us this season, I will continue my fight to protect our communities and forests from the threat and spread of wildfire. Supporting innovative public-private partnerships such as these stewardship contracts will help create more Colorado jobs directly tied to effective forest management and wildfire mitigation," Udall said. "This much-needed bill will allow the federal government to continue making long-term forest stewardship contracts that promote use of our state's forest products, such as timber and biomass."
"Stewardship Contracting is an important tool for our natural resource professionals as they actively manage our forests, which is why Colorado is among the states with the most contracts underway," Bennet said. "It is critical that we utilize available resources to keep our forests healthy and our local communities safe. Last year was a devastating fire season for our state, and we must redouble our efforts to maintain healthy forests and reduce the risk of wildfires."
Udall and Bennet have fought to secure the tools forest and public lands managers need to reduce wildfire risks and address the ongoing bark beetle epidemic. Earlier this month they joined with Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to introduce legislation to help the U.S. Forest Service treat insect and disease epidemics and promote overall forest health. The bill would direct the U.S. Forest Service to treat one or more subwatersheds on all National Forests that are experiencing certain thresholds of insect epidemics or diseases that impair forest health.
Udall and Bennet also have been strong advocates for ensuring that Colorado communities have the resources they need before, during and after wildfires to confront these destructive blazes, protect lives and restore their drinking water supplies. Earlier this year they successfully secured funding for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program to help communities burned by the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires address flood risks and repair damaged watersheds.