A new bill supported by Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs targets millions of dollars in federal funding for wildfire prevention.
The Prepare, Ready, Equip and Prevent Areas at-Risk of Emergency (PREPARE) Wildfires Act directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up a funding stream aimed specifically at wildfire.
The bill would authorize an additional $20 million to $30 million in grant funds each year in a five-year wildfire-mitigation pilot program. The bill was introduced by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo.
Gibbs said the PREPARE Act both makes sense from a fire-prevention standpoint and provides flexibility as to where officials decide to use the funds. Currently, federal funds for wildfire mitigation are directed toward fires that occur on federal lands, Gibbs said. The PREPARE Act would provide a funding stream that allows local officials to use the mitigation dollars for priority projects on federal, state or private land.
“In Colorado and throughout the West, we have a patchwork of federal, state and local lands,” Gibbs said. “Too often when you look at wildfire preparedness, we don’t look enough at the landscape. We shouldn’t focus so much on the jurisdiction, but on what the needs are.”
On Wednesday, Summit County’s Open Space and Trails department received a $105,000 award from the Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program for wildfire-mitigation efforts in the Golden Horseshoe area, which is jointly managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the town of Breckenridge and Summit County.
This is an example of a project that PREPARE Act matching grants could easily complement, Gibbs said.
The PREPARE Act bill was modeled on strong local efforts in Summit County to do mitigation work and fuels reduction, according to Bennet’s press secretary, Kristin Lynch.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, every dollar spent up-front on wildfire mitigation results in $5 saved in future disaster losses.
“That’s why we think it’s important to make sure we’re doing everything we can to mitigate the risk of destructive fires on the front end — the likes we’ve seen in Black Forest and South Fork — so that we save money in the long run,” Lynch said. “The idea is to provide flexibility so that these local efforts have access to Federal funds to continue doing the good work they’re doing.”
“We think it’s important to make sure we’re doing everything we can to mitigate the risk of destructive fires on the front end — the likes we’ve seen in Black Forest and South Fork — so that we save money in the long run.”
press secretary for Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet