Tipton Addresses CLUB 20 in Washington

Stresses the need for proactive forest management

WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03) addressed members of CLUB 20 who are in Washington this week to meet with lawmakers on issues that impact Western Colorado. Tipton addressed a number of topics with the group, including efforts to advance all-of-the-above energy development as a way to lower energy prices and create thousands of jobs in the state.

Tipton also stressed the need for proactive forest management to restore damaged Colorado forests to a healthy natural state in order to prevent wildfire. Tipton raised concerns with the group about the U.S. Forest Service’s spending priorities, citing the fact that Forest Service plans to spend $60 million in acquiring new lands, when it is facing significant challenges managing land it already oversees.

In an April House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation hearing, Tidwell cited budget constraints and employee reductions as one of the challenges facing the Forest Service in managing federal lands.  Tipton challenged Tidwell on this point asking why the Forest Service was spending money on further land acquisition given budget constraints, instead of prioritizing funds for forest management.  The Forest Service is requesting nearly $60 million in FY2014 for the acquisition of new lands.

During that hearing Tipton stated, “It’s a management decision.  Shouldn’t we prioritize in tough economic times where those dollars are really going? And rather than asking for more land to manage, when we can’t manage the land we currently have, let’s apply those dollars to truly manage the forests that we have.”

Last year, the Forest Service spent $296 million on hazardous fuels treatment nationwide while spending $1.77 billion on wildfire suppression during the same time. In a hearing last month, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell confirmed that more needs to be done to proactively manage forests rather than continuing to have to spend exponentially greater resources on suppression and wildfire cleanup efforts once it’s too late. In 2012, fires scorched over nine million acres of land nationwide, took more than a dozen lives, destroyed thousands of homes, caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and destroyed important wildlife habitat. 

“Wouldn’t it be sensible rather than spending $1.77 billion on fire suppression and only $296 million in terms of mitigation of those risks in our forests to reverse those numbers and actually be able to protect our communities,” said Tipton.

Tipton has introduced legislation (H.R. 818) to encourage proactive forest management by streamlining hazardous fuels reduction projects and making up-front investments in forest health, in order to spend fewer taxpayer dollars fighting fires later on. Tipton’s bill places no requirement on state and local officials to act but provides governors and county commissioners with the ability to designate high-risk areas and develop emergency hazardous fuels reduction projects on federal lands. Tipton’s bill has received a subcommittee hearing and is expected to receive a markup in the full Natural Resources Committee soon.

The Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act is supported by numerous Colorado counties, as well as state and national environmental organizations and conservation districts.  boards of county commissioners