“Prepping” our forests to minimize impacts of wildfires on communities
Wildfire is an increasing threat to communities throughout the Western United States. Many of us living in the high hazard “red zone” are concerned that Congress has failed to adequately address this issue. Now two Western senators have stepped forward to take action. The Colorado Bark Beetle Cooperative (CBBC) is heartened by the bipartisan leadership of Senators Michael Bennet and Mike Crapo. They recently introduced the ‘‘Prepare, Ready, Equip, and Prevent Areas at Risk of Emergency Wildfires 6 Act of 2015’’ or the ‘‘PREPARE Act of 2015’’.
Currently over 50 percent of the US Forest Service budget is needed to fight catastrophic wildfires, leaving insufficient funding for planning, collaboration, fuel reduction and other measures to reduce wildfire impacts. This critical legislation establishes a wildfire mitigation pilot program that would fund hazardous fuels reduction identified in community wildfire protection plans, mitigation efforts against flood damage, investments in equipment and personnel, and community planning efforts.
CBBC supports communities to become more resilient through collaborative efforts that could utilize some of the anticipated funding. These efforts can include fuels treatments where they are most effective and designed with input from the community, infrastructure protection, as well as, preparing communities for post-fire impacts. The act provides for support from the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund for not less than $20,000,000 and not more than $30,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2016 through 2021.
“The funds may be used to reduce the hazardous fuel load by reducing the use of fuels that may contribute to catastrophic wildfires in high–risk areas; to invest in personnel and organizations to conduct wildfire mitigation; to invest in vehicles and other equipment to conduct wildfire mitigation; to mitigate against damage from runoff into waterways and floods caused by erosion from wildfires; to build essential community collaboration and outline the necessary groundwork systems in anticipation of future fires.”
Let’s all get behind this important legislation and thank Senators Bennett and Crapo for stepping up and addressing this critical need.
The CBBC is a place-based collaborative created in 2006 to address the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and has since reorganized to focus on increasing community resilience to natural disturbances in the high altitude forests of Central Colorado. The Steering Committee is comprised of federal, state, and local government representatives, along with representatives of public utilities, water providers, wood products industry, conservation, and public interest groups.
Bruce Ward is the outdoor recreation representative for the Colorado Bark Beetle Cooperative
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