Bennet, Bipartisan Senators urge Congress to pass wildfire funding fix
DENVER, Colo. — With fires blazing across the west, Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and a bipartisan group of senators urged Senate Leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer to include a wildfire funding fix in any future disaster aid legislation that passes through Congress.
Congress recently passed a bipartisan funding bill that helps with the cost of fighting the wildfires across western states this summer. However, the funding bill did not fix the long-term problem of consistently underfunding fire suppression, which currently forces federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service to steal funds from fire prevention and other non-fire programs to fight fires, so-called “fire borrowing.”
Wildfires have burned almost 8 million acres of land across the west this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Thousands of residents have been forced to evacuate from their homes, and the U.S. Forest Service has already spent more than $1.7 billion this year to put out fires.
“We stand ready to work with our colleagues in a bipartisan way in Congress to do everything we can to ensure the victims of Hurricane Harvey get the assistance they need,” the bipartisan group of senators wrote. “As we work to assist Texas and Louisiana on the road to recovery, please do not forget about wildfires — the natural disaster currently raging through the west.
“We ask that any disaster aid package or other must-pass legislation that passes through Congress include a wildfire funding fix. This fix is long overdue and people throughout the west desperately need our help.”
In addition to Bennet, the letter’s signers include Ron Wyden, D-Ore, Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Martin Heinrich, D-N.Mex., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Patty Murray, D-Wash, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Tom Udall, D-N.Mex. ❖