House Passes Tipton, Polis Amendment to Increase Funding for Wildfire Prevention

WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved an amendment offered by Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) that would direct $7,655,000 to the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund. This amendment would increase funds for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to minimize the damage and costs of extreme weather events, like wildfires, by mitigating the threat prior to a disaster. The amendment is offset by decreasing the same amount of funding in the Automation Modernization account of the Department of Homeland Security which received an increase of $7,655,000 this year.

Last year was an unusually devastating year for wildfires. Colorado experienced two of the most destructive fires in its history. In 2012, Colorado wildfires destroyed nearly 650 structures, killed six Coloradans, burned more than 384,000 acres of land, and caused over $538 million in property losses.

“Forests are vital for the Western United States. They provide limitless environmental and economic benefits when healthy. It’s our responsibility to preserve this incredible natural resource and do all we can to restore forest health, and do all we can to prevent future loss of life and property to catastrophic wildfire. For too long we have been working to stop fires once they start, and mitigate damage once it has already occurred. As the old saying goes, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’” said Tipton. “That’s what this amendment is about—getting ahead of this problem by investing greater resources toward prevention so we can take a more proactive approach to restoring our forests to a healthy natural state.”

“We cannot stop the occurrence of wildfires, but we can take measures to reduce their impacts on our communities,” said Polis. “The Predisaster Mitigation Fund has proven to significantly reduce the risks and damage associated with wildfires and other extreme weather events. Colorado’s been hit hard by drought, and record high temperatures, which has increased the threat of wildfires in our backyards. My amendment ensures that we save government dollars and lives by proactively addressing the threats of wildfires before they occur.”

The amendment was offered to H.R. 2217, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2014, which is expected to pass the House tomorrow.

The National Predisaster Mitigation Fund provides technical assistance and grants to State, local, and tribal governments, and to universities to reduce the risks associated with disasters.  These funds support the development of hazard mitigation plans and the implementation of disaster mitigation projects. The National Predisaster Mitigation Fund is one of the only FEMA programs that would fund projects aimed at mitigating the wildfire threat prior to an event.

Watch Congressman Tipton’s floor speech here and read the transcript here.

Video and text of Congressman Polis’ floor speech is available here and on his website at www.polis.house.gov.

*This release was sent jointly with the office of Rep. Polis.