Vail Daily letter: Let’s fix fire-fighting funding with new legislation | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily letter: Let’s fix fire-fighting funding with new legislation

Let’s fix fire-fighting funding

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, the only forester in Congress, has introduced the Resilient Federal Forest Act of 2017 (H.R. 2936). If passed, then this act will help the U.S. 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 provide incentives for collaboration and simplify environmental process requirements, where applicable. Lastly, the act will fix wildfire funding, which currently accounts for more than 50 percent of the Forest Service budget annually, by allowing some fires to be defined as major disasters and preventing the disastrous trend of fire borrowing.

Rather than continually throwing money at the problem, let’s fix what is causing the problem. Tell your representatives to support H.R. 2936.

Molly Pitts

Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities, Salida