A resolution authored by Rep. Scott Tipton and cosponsored by Reps. Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner, and Doug Lamborn, calls for funding to rid federal lands of diseased trees and other brush acting as fuel.
“The incident commanders in charge of suppression efforts on the West Fork Fire—the nation’s highest priority—told me this week that the behavior of the fire is unprecedented,” Tipton said on the House floor Wednesday announcing the measure.
“Because of all of the beetle-killed timber, unnaturally dense forest and dry conditions, the fire has acted in a way that defies computer models and has been incredibly devastating,” Tipton said.
“The most tragic part of this is that the occurrence of these forest fires could be reduced, if not outright prevented, with commonsense healthy forest management,” Tipton said.
The federal government spent nearly $2 billion in 2012 to fight forest fires, while spending less than the $300 million to reduce hazardous fuels. The Obama administration has also proposed to cut $116 million next year in three thinning efforts.
The resolution says resources are needed to protect the environment as well as the economy. Already this summer more than 75,000 acres have burned in the West Fork fire costing $22 million in damages, with 1,000 firefighters battling the blaze.
“People who live in or near our national forests have a right to expect the greatest possible protection for their homes and property,” the resolution said.
The measure would also block the federal agencies from purchasing any more land, citing ongoing mismanagement of millions of acres or property already in the government’s hands.
The resolution predicts the Forest Service could prevent many of the fires already burning by proactively managing public lands.
By comparison, Obama said his plan to add new regulations to coal-fired power plants would reduce the effects of climate change and prevent forest fires.
In a major address to a Georgetown University crowd, Obama said, “No single weather event is caused solely by climate change,” but blamed global warming for too much rain that creates floods, for not enough rain leading to droughts, and for sparking forest fires. He said his plan would combat rising seas and stabilize the severe weather patterns.
Colorado experienced two catastrophic fires last year that killed six people and roared over 380,000 acres of land causing $538 million in property damage.
Weather forecasters are predicting severe dry conditions this summer, and combined with unhealthy forests conditions, is expected to be equally devastating.