An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: Crapo, Bennet Introduce Amendment to Increase Resources for Wildfire Mitigation
Amendment Would Reduce Future Recovery Costs with Pre-Disaster Mitigation Competitive Grants
Washington, D.C. - According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), every $1 in fire mitigation funding saves $5 in future losses. To take advantage of these potential savings, U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) have filed their Prepare, Ready, Equip, and Prevent Areas at-Risk of Emergency (PREPARE) Wildfires Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate is currently considering.
Introduced in August, the deficit-neutral PREPARE Act would create a competitive grants program to provide targeted investments to state and local officials for mitigation and preparedness projects. The pilot program would be part of FEMA's Pre-Disaster Mitigation fund.
"Despite this year's fire season coming to a close, Senator Bennet and I are moving forward to help mitigate and prepare for the 2014 fire season and beyond," Crapo said. "Instead of waiting until more towns are evacuated, homes threatened and our firefighters lives put at risk, the U.S. Senate has an opportunity to pass the PREPARE Act amendment to help states like Idaho reduce and prevent catastrophic fires. Analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office shows that fire mitigation projects financed through the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program yield some of the greatest returns in preventing future losses when compared to mitigation activities for other natural disasters. Promoting a program that delivers positive, measurable results is a commonsense approach to reducing future threats posed by wildfires."
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By directing more resources toward fire mitigation on the front-end, we can not only help prevent and reduce the severity of future disasters, we can also save millions of dollars in recovery costs in the long-run," Bennet said. "Large devastating fires are unfortunately becoming a fact of life for Coloradans and others throughout the west, and we need to ensure that states are adequately equipped to face this threat. This common-sense bill does that."
The PREPARE Act:
- Would provide $20-$30 million per year for a five-year wildfire mitigation pilot program
- FEMA would carry out the program in consultation with the U.S. Forest Service
- States and local governments would provide matching funds, leveraging federal dollars for maximum efficiency.
- Recognizing the reality that wildfires don't respect jurisdictional boundaries, local officials would be able to use the mitigation dollars for priority projects on federal, state, or private land.
Background on Senators Bennet and Crapo's work on wildfire issues:
This year Bennet and Crapo teamed up to secure a provision in the Senate Homeland Security appropriations directing FEMA to detail its efforts to mitigate wildfires and identify any funding obstacles for current mitigation programs.
Bennet has worked tirelessly to attract critical federal resources to help combat wildfires and mitigate their effects. Earlier this month, he chaired a Senate subcommittee hearing on the importance of allocating mitigation resources up front to prevent the risk of destructive wildfires and reduce the cost of fighting them in the long run. Bennet has also called for the modernization of our air tanker fleet to fight wildfires, led efforts to secure Emergency Watershed Protection resources to help Colorado communities recover from last year's Waldo Canyon and High Park fires, and authored key forest health and wildfire prevention provisions in the Senate Farm Bill. He also led efforts to bring federal assistance to Colorado following last year's High Park and Waldo Canyon fires.
Throughout his career in Congress, Crapo has worked to reduce the risk and severity of large-scale wildfires. In the U.S. Senate in particular, Crapo helped enact legislation, including the Healthy Forest Restoration Act and the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act, that have provided land managers with more tools to counter unhealthy conditions in our nation's forests and other lands to reduce the fire threat. Crapo recently joined a bipartisan group of senators in urging President Obama not to reduce timber sales on Forest Service lands, as he called for in his 2014 budget. The letter stressed the serious consequences reductions could have on communities across the nation and the need for increased timber harvests to help mitigate raging wildfires and help create jobs in our forests.