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Congressman Scott Tipton

Representing the 3rd District of Colorado

Tipton and Gardner Urge Department of Commerce to Support Colorado Communities Devastated by Wildfires

June 19, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Scott Tipton and Senator Cory Gardner are urging the Department of Commerce to work to support the communities in Southwest Colorado that will suffer long-term economic consequences as a result of the catastrophic 416 and Burro wildfires. In a letter to Secretary Wilbur Ross, Tipton and Gardner highlighted the economic impact that the wildfires have already had on Southwest Colorado.

The text of the letter from Tipton and Gardner to Ross follows:

Dear Secretary Ross,

While wildfires are a part of life in the West, low snowpack and drought conditions have put the State of Colorado at increased risk for catastrophic wildfires in 2018. The 416 and Burro Fires currently burning in Southwest Colorado are the first major fires in what will likely be a long and dangerous fire season.

The 416 Fire has reached over 23,000 acres near Durango and Silverton, CO, in the San Juan National Forest. Outdoor and historic tourism in the summer months is extremely important to the economy in Southwest Colorado, and the economic impacts of the fire have already been devastating. For the first time in history, the San Juan National Forest is completely closed, as is Chimney Rock National Monument. We fully support the U.S. Forest Service in its pursuit of ensuring safety for visitors and residents, but there is no doubt that closing two of the area’s biggest attractions will have long-term economic consequences.   

In meetings and calls with local business owners and public officials, our offices have learned that the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train, which contributes nearly $190 million to the economy in Southwest Colorado annually, has already laid off 150 employees due to the transit closures resulting from the fire. Every business in the town of Silverton has had to cut staff hours or lay off employees, and they are struggling to get supplies. Tourism throughout the summer months has historically provided support for Silverton businesses for the entire year, but now tourism is non-existent. On top of the lack of snowfall that contributed to decreased winter tourism, the 416 Fire is wiping out any chance for the town to recover over the summer.

It was encouraging to see the Department of Commerce, working through the Economic Development Administration, come to the aid of the communities that were impacted by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and other natural disasters last year. Disaster funding is critical to supporting long-term economic recovery, and it is our hope that the Department of Commerce will continue to work to support the communities that are devastated by natural disasters, including wildfires, in 2018 and beyond.

If we can be of assistance in connecting the Department with state and local officials, or local businesses and families during the recovery efforts, please do not hesitate to contact either of our offices.

See a pdf of the letter here.

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