An effort to restore $653 million to the U.S. Forest Service’s Wildland Fire Management Fund for 2013 failed last week, when the Senate rejected the idea proposed by Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado and Jon Tester of Montana.
The funding, proposed in an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Assistance, “would have given Colorado a running start to prepare for next year’s wildfire season,” Udall says in a release, noting that 2012 saw the two most destructive fires in Colorado history. The Waldo Canyon Fire killed two and destroyed 345 homes in Colorado Springs, while the High Park Fire near Fort Collins killed one and destroyed 259 homes.
The add-on would have increased the fire management fund to $1.584 billion, funneling money to wildland fire preparedness, suppression, hazardous fuels reduction, fire research and development, and state fire assistance.
Udall has championed forestry issues, and in October joined Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., in calling for a study of Colorado’s fires to better understand social, economic, organizational and ecological impacts, as well as mitigation approaches for the future. While in the U.S. House in 2002, he pushed for a similar study of the Hayman Fire in Teller, Park and Douglas counties, which resulted in a 400-page report. He also has pushed to speed up the Forest Service’s acquisition of seven additional air tankers.
“Make no mistake about it: Wildfires threaten entire communities,” Udall says in the release. “My common-sense amendment would end up saving taxpayers over the long term and help save lives and property.” Pam Zubeck
Eyes on GOP chair
The El Paso County Republican Party will be electing new leadership in February, and Dave Williams, the current vice-chairman, has announced that he will be running for chairman.
While Williams has gained some prominent political allies, including former state Sen. Dave Schultheis, he has also ruffled feathers during his two-year term. As we’ve detailed in numerous stories, Williams has often clashed with current chairman Eli Bremer. Even in his announcement Williams took a dig at Bremer, stating, “For the last several years, we’ve had to watch the failed leadership in El Paso County’s Republican Party drive down turnout and weaken our credibility with swing voters while losing even more State Legislative seats to the bankrupting Democrats.”
No word yet as to whether Bremer intends to run for a second term (he didn’t respond to a request for comment), but Williams will be facing some competition. Jeff Hays, a Republican operative who worked on the re-election campaign for state Rep. Amy Stephens, has thrown his hat in the ring. Chet Hardin