Udall working on funding for prevention
As part of a previously scheduled trip through western Colorado, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., toured the Bureau of Land Management’s fire control nerve center near Grand Junction Regional Airport on Tuesday.
The trip happened to coincide with ongoing efforts to contain the Pine Ridge Fire, which BLM spokesman Christopher Joyce said should be contained within a couple days.
The next step would be rehabilitating the damaged area to prevent runoff from impacting railroad tracks, roads and the Colorado River, all of which are just downhill of the burned areas.
The need for swift and effective rehabilitation efforts was emphasized in Udall’s conversations with BLM officials Tuesday, including the trade-off between money spent on suppressing fire outbreaks and that spent on post-fire rehabilitation.
As larger and more intense fires cause more and more money to be spent on suppression, there is less money available in the budget for rehabilitation efforts, including reseeding, Udall was told.
After the tour, Udall said he has “worked on fire policy almost my entire career,” but that the state’s fires have changed over that time.
Whereas Colorado’s forests used to consist of large trees and underbrush, now they often consist of denser stands of smaller trees, resulting in different fires and different challenges.
To address these, Udall said he has worked recently to expand the air tanker fleet, bring “a lot of new money to the prevention side” and open opportunities for the private sector such as thinning and utilizing beetle-damaged timber. “Hopefully, in the best case, what’s happening will draw more attention” to the danger of wildfire and the need to implement stronger preventive measures, he said.