Colorado Editorials

Durango Herald: Fire prevention and response funds are necessary and should not compete

Author: The Durango Herald Editorial Board - April 14, 2018 - Updated: April 14, 2018

The $1.3 trillion spending package passed by Congress in time to avert a government shut down last month includes something western states have long wanted: money dedicated specifically to fighting catastrophic wildfires.

For years, once federal agencies have exhausted their inadequate firefighting budgets, they have had to “borrow” – a euphemism for raiding – from other budget areas, including, ironically, money allocated for wildfire prevention. As wildfires have worsened, the borrowing has increased, partly because currently, funding is tied to a 10-year average, which has led to severely inadequate funding in dealing with fires that are bigger, more intense and occur more often.

Colorado’s U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), worked together to push for a new emergency fund that will provide money that can be tapped when initial firefighting funds are spent, enabling such agencies as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to know that money budgeted for non-firefighting activities will be used for the intended purposes. Because wildland fires can now be treated like other natural disasters, federal lands agencies will have predictable resources for prevention.

Kudos to Sens. Bennet and Gardner, as well as all the other western lawmakers who pushed for legislation and funding that had broad bipartisan support but which had seemed unachievable for too long.


The Durango Herald Editorial Board