Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and National Forest Service Chief Randy Moore were in Boulder Monday to highlight federal funding to fight wildfires.
Moore announced $131 million in funding through the bipartisan infrastructure bill for 10 Western states to start work on wildfire mitigation efforts, while Haaland focused on the $5 billion over the next five years the bill spends to bolster the federal response to fire.
Colorado is expected to receive over $33 million.
“This is an opportunity for us to come from a place of wanting to a place of having,” said Moore. For a long time we’ve known what to do. But we’ve not had the ability to do at a scale that made a difference on the landscape. This gives up an opportunity to mitigate at the scale the fires are occurring if we want to make a difference.”
The Front Range will be one of the priority landscapes with about $18 million in funding.
Rep. Joe Neguse said his community has been “besieged” by a fire season that now lasts all year.
“It is all the more reason for us to take wildfire mitigation resilience seriously,” he said. “It is an area where we are refocusing our efforts to double down on investments that we know will work.” Neguse highlighted aerial mulching and reforestation efforts, as examples of work that will “pay dividends in the future.”
“What we’ve been able to do this year,” Sen. Michael Bennet said, “is demonstrate that the country for the first time really recognizes the scale of the challenge that we have.”
Key areas have already been identified, such as the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and the Pike-San Isabel National Forests. However Forest Supervisor Monte Williams said he expects many of the mitigation projects will be community driven.
“You can’t walk into a community with a whole bunch of money and just say tomorrow go figure out how you're going to figure out how you’re going to solve all these problems.”
Williams said there will be future discussions with stakeholders about where and how the money will be spent.
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