By: The Working Forest Staff
COLORADO POLITICS.COM — U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse were among the 30 members of Congress who requested that wildfire mitigation and recovery funds be included in any forthcoming COVID-19 relief legislation.
“A record 2020 wildfire season forced thousands of evacuations, threatened air and water quality, and destroyed homes and businesses across the West,” read the Dec. 8 letter addressed to the leaders of both chambers. “Congress must provide support for these communities as they recover from the fires, and, given that many of these fires burned on federal land, Congress must invest in land management agencies to prevent further catastrophic wildfire.”
Specifically, the members of Congress, all from the West, asked for the establishment of a conservation corps focusing on forest health, funding for interagency hotshot crews to extend their service and increased pay for firefighting personnel.
For those localities that suffered adverse effects from wildfires, the lawmakers advocated for $250 billion in relief for tribes and smaller jurisdictions that did not receive funding in the CARES Act passed earlier this year.
“The National Interagency Fire Center estimates that over 47,000 fires burned more than 8.5 million acres. Over two-thirds of the affected acreage is on federal land and almost 4 million, or 45 percent, is Forest Service land,” the letter continued. “Therefore, Congress must provide sufficient funding and direction to support long-term wildfire recovery and rehabilitation on Forest Service land.”
The Hill reported on Thursday that the lack of progress on a pandemic relief bill is due to divisions among Senate Republicans about how to proceed.
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