Senators Push for USDA, Timber Industry Cooperation

Pagosa Springs Daily

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Washington, DC, October 30, 2013 | By Mike Saccone | comments

Colorado's U.S. Senator Mark Udall, a strong voice for proactively reducing wildfire risk throughout Colorado, led a bipartisan and bicameral letter pressing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to partner with the timber industry to reduce wildfire risks in fire-prone areas, create jobs and improve community safety throughout the Rocky Mountain West.

"The National Forest management program in this region falls far short of meeting the need for hazardous fuels reduction and forest restoration. ... There has never been a better time to foster industry partnerships that will reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, restore forest health, and create sustainable rural jobs," Udall and his colleagues wrote in the letter. "That is why we ask for your renewed commitment to increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration in the Rocky Mountain Region — particularly in the wildland-urban interface and in backcountry areas supporting critical infrastructure and water supplies.

"Specifically, we ask you to consider increasing the investment in restoration and timber management, and continuing to pursue operational efficiencies."

Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) and Congressmen Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) also signed the letter.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the Rocky Mountain region, which includes Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and most of South Dakota and Wyoming, experienced 2,482 fires so far this year. These wildfires scorched 230,526 acres.

Click here to read the Senators' letter.

Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has been a strong supporter of the public-private partnerships the U.S. Forest Service has used to improve forest health, including biomass projects, like the one Xcel Energy is pursuing in Colorado. Udall also has heralded the efforts of private companies, like Montrose Forest Products, that are creating jobs by turning beetle-killed trees and other forest products into commercial lumber.

Udall also has been a leading voice for ensuring that Colorado and the West have adequate resources to prepare for the threat of wildfire, including pressing the U.S. Forest Service to quickly adopt the Government Accountability Office's recent recommendations on how to update its air tanker fleet.

He also led the recent fight to ensure the Forest Service was able to cut through red tape and secure seven next-generation air tankers. One of the next-generation air tankers Udall fought to acquire helped fight the Black Forest Fire.

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