This letter to the Editor was published in the Durango Herald on June 29th, 2017.
With Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah all experiencing a severe fire season and our local western Colorado communities being inundated with smoke, it is a good reminder of the work that must be done to protect our communities and keep our forests healthy.
Given the fact that Colorado now has an estimated 834 million dead trees, due to the ongoing mountain pine beetle and spruce beetle epidemics, there is a lot of work that needs to be done.
In order to get this critical work done on the ground, congress needs to fix fire funding and pass forest management reform. Fortunately, Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, the only forester in Congress, has introduced the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 (H.R. 2936).
If passed, this act will help the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management better utilize the tools they have been given through the Farm Bill and other legislation to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire, insect and disease infestations and damage to municipal watersheds.
The act will also incentivize collaboration and simplify environmental process requirements where applicable. Lastly, the act will fix wildfire funding, which currently accounts for over 50 percent of the Forest Service budget annually, by allowing some fires to be defined as a major disasters and preventing fire borrowing.
Rather than just continually throwing money at the problem, let’s fix what is causing the problem. Tell your representatives to support H.R. 2936.