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Senate balks on wildfire preparedness funding

Udall amendment would have boosted Forest Service readiness

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A crown fire burns through a western forest. Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with budget gridlock, the U.S. Senate this week rejected an effort by two western senators to fully fund the U.S. Forest Service’s wildfire budget for 2013.

Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) had previously offered a budget amendment to pay for pre-placement of firefighters and equipment in anticipation of a wildfire season that could be even worse than last summer’s, which included 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,” Udall said. “I am concerned that the U.S. Senate has decided to turn a blind eye to these predictable disaster needs,” he 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.

 

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