Gov. Bill Ritter, state Rep. Christine Scanlan and state Sen. Dan Gibbs (D-Summit County) today urged Colorado’s congressional delegation to support the FLAME Act, federal legislation that will help prevent fires, address the pine beetle epidemic and keep Colorado’s forests healthy.
“This is a local, state and federal issue and we need support on all levels to prepare for future wildfires,” Sen. Gibbs, who is a volunteer wildland firefighter and a member of the Council, said in a statement. “The FLAME Act will help prioritize critical wildfire funding so we protect life, property and water from the risks of a catastrophic fire. One million Coloradans live within the wildland urban interface and we have more than 2 million acres of dead lodge-pole pine. This couldn’t come at a better time. I would like to thank Gov. Ritter for his leadership and I encourage Congress to pass the FLAME Act now.”
“Colorado’s forests provide environmental, social and economic benefits that are central to the state’s quality of life,” Gov. Ritter wrote in a letter to the delegation on behalf of his Colorado Forest Health Advisory Council. “The protection and management of this critical resource is a top priority for my Administration and I sincerely appreciate the leadership and commitment shown by Colorado’s Congressional delegation in this regard. I believe that the resolution of the current fire suppression funding crisis is essential to the sustainability of forest management programs of great importance to our state. I urge your support for The Flame Act in its current form and encourage you to pursue its timely passage.”
“Colorado faces an extreme risk for a catastrophic wildfire in the northern and central Rockies, which is an issue of urgent national importance,” Rep. Scanlan said in a statement. “The vast majority of beetle kill acreage is on federal lands, where the critical infrastructure and essential watersheds that most Coloradans rely on are located. The FLAME Act is a vital piece of legislation that will ensure our first responders are prepared for emergencies, and ensures we have money ready for battling blazes. I encourage Congress to pass this important bill.”
Here is the complete text of Gov. Ritter’s letter to the delegation:
March 25, 2009
Dear Colorado Congressional Delegation Member:
I am writing to express my support, on behalf of my Colorado Forest Health Advisory Council, for the companion bills commonly known as The FLAME Act (S. 561 / H.R. 1404). Colorado, like many other western states, continues to face a tremendous need for forest restoration and wildfire risk reduction. This need far outpaces the resources available to accomplish treatments on the ground. Through The FLAME Act, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other public land agencies would receive relief from their current wildfire suppression funding crisis, thus freeing up potentially millions of dollars for essential land management priorities. We urge your support for this important legislation.
Wildfire suppression costs have grown tremendously in recent years and projections indicate that this trend will only increase as a result of hazardous fuels build-up, climate change, and increasingly populated wildland-urban interface areas. These growing costs severely hamper the land management agencies’ ability to fund other agency programs. Without resolution, suppression costs will continue to consume a larger percentage of agency budgets, subsequently reducing funding for and crippling critical programs and projects.
As proposed, The Flame Act incorporates two key recommendations put forward by the national Partner Caucus on Fire Suppression Funding Solutions. First, the legislation creates a partitioned wildfire suppression account to fund emergency wildfire events separately from the fixed and predictable costs of annual fire suppression. This budget approach would relieve the need for the Forest Service to devote close to 50% of its budget to fire suppression and then borrow funds from other programs to pay for suppression costs when the dedicated funds are not enough.
Second, the legislation replaces the “10-year rolling average” that is currently used to estimate annual wildfire suppression funding needs with a more predictive approach that utilizes current weather, drought, fuel load, fire history and other data to project the extent of wildland fire on the landscape and a complementary economic model to predict the funding needed to address this projection.
In addition to the legislative components described above, we urge you to consider a comprehensive solution that incorporates robust cost containment measures and meaningful federal investment in hazardous fuel reduction, forest restoration and community fire assistance as recommended in the nation’s forest health blueprint, the Ten Year Comprehensive Strategy and Implementation Plan.
Colorado’s forests provide environmental, social and economic benefits that are central to the state’s quality of life. The protection and management of this critical resource is a top priority for my Administration and I sincerely appreciate the leadership and commitment shown by Colorado’s Congressional delegation in this regard. I believe that the resolution of the current fire suppression funding crisis is essential to the sustainability of forest management programs of great importance to our state. I urge your support for The Flame Act in its current form and encourage you to pursue its timely passage.
Bill Ritter, Jr.