Forests were ablaze in several locations throughout the state Wednesday when Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) called on federal officials to reveal whether fire-mitigation work is taking place as quickly as it should in places impacted by the mountain pine-beetle epidemic.
"Many of our mountain communities have expressed concern about the removal of these dead trees and are asking for a timeline of the tree removal that will help protect their communities and create jobs during a time when many Coloradans are unemployed," Udall said.
The senator sent a letter to the National Park Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, asking them to report on the status of $30 million the administration had promised earlier this year to help fund the removal of trees killed by the beetle in Colorado and Wyoming. Udall also renewed his call for an additional $50 million in resources for fuels reduction in high-risk areas, or "red zones."
"I'm going to continue to push. I'm going to offer an amendment on every bill possible," Udall said of his efforts to secure additional funds.
Udall asked administration officials to disclose where funds have already been spent on wildfire threats and hazard tree removal, whether any of the money is being spent to remove vegetation build-up that can feed wildfires, and if there is enough funding for wildfire suppression this summer season.
"While I understand there is limited funding to address fire threats, I remain concerned that these funds may not be sufficient to address the extent of the problem facing communities adjacent to and within forested areas," Udall wrote in the letter.
Udall's statements came as fire and forest officials throughout the state issued warnings of high fire danger for the July Fourth holiday weekend. Warm temperatures, low humidity and windy days create the ideal environment for a wildfire to start.
On Monday, smoke jumpers from the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit responded to two small fires in the Rifle Ranger District of the White River National Forest. Both fires were a result of lightning strikes and were not threatening any structures on Wednesday. Large fires were still burning Wednesday in parts of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, but both parks remained open to visitors.
SDN reporter Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.