1:06pm

Tue June 14, 2011
Wildfire Prevention

Udall Questions Forest Service Leader about Fire Mitigation

Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee – including Colorado Senator Mark Udall – questioned federal land management officials on Tuesday about their wildfire strategies in what’s already been a devastating wildfire season in the west.

Much of the questioning was focused towards U.S. Forest Chief Tom Tidwell – and whether his agency is up to this year’s challenge with more than 4 million acres already burned or burning.

“Based upon the level of fire activity and projections for the rest of the year suppression funding for this year should be sufficient,” Tidwell said.

Senator Udall (D-CO) asked about mitigation and how private industry could benefit from tree thinning projects. Tidwell answered that it’s critical for large scale efforts to move forward and that it would lead to investments.

“We want to continue to use our long-term stewardship contracts so that someone can realize that there is going to be a certain amount of work that’s going to be done for the next ten years so that they can make the investment in the equipment like you just mentioned.”

Questions were also raised about an aging air tanker fleet and how the Forest Service will respond to future firefighting needs. Tidwell says his agency will present Congress with a comprehensive plan by the end of the summer.