Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) announced March 21 that they plan to offer a bipartisan amendment to the 2014 U.S. Senate budget to increase the funding availability for fighting wildfires and modernizing the air tanker fleet by $100 million — critical funds that will help prevent fires from growing and threatening lives and homes in the West. Udall and Barrasso, who both serve on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said their deficit-neutral and bipartisan amendment underscores the importance of ensuring that the U.S. Forest Service is prepared to fight wildfires, especially during the ongoing drought and continued threat of bark beetle.
“Wildfire threatens entire communities in Colorado and across the West. That’s why I am proud to partner with Sen. Barrasso to introduce this common-sense, bipartisan and deficit-neutral amendment to the 2014 budget,” Udall said. “We need to reduce the federal budget deficit, but not investing in firefighting efforts and mitigation will levy an unacceptably steep and entirely avoidable cost upon Colorado and the West. Effectively fighting and containing wildfires before they become mega-fires is critical to protecting lives, homes, businesses and our most precious resource: water. The recent mega-fires we have seen in Colorado are harbingers of what’s to come if we do not prioritize firefighting resources.”
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“Wyoming and other Western communities continue to be threatened by wildfires stemming from excessive fuel loads and beetle killed timber. It’s crucial that we have the necessary resources available to contain them,” Barrasso said. “Our amendment would ensure that firefighting resources are given top priority. This will help give Federal land agencies the tools they need to save lives, homes, and property across the country.”
The amendment would require the Senate Appropriations Committee to prioritize this suppression funding and reduce spending on lower priority items in 2014.