Three members of Colorado’s congressional delegation seek $60 billion to reduce wildfire risk, restore Western land

The Protect the West Act is sponsored by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, as well as U.S. Rep. Jason Crow

Shannon Mullane
The Colorado Sun
A patchwork of areas that burned and areas that were not touched along the Fern Lake Trail on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Cameron Peak fire and the East Troublesome fire raged around the park in fall of 2020 and 30,000 acres inside the park burned.
Kathryn Scott/Special to The Colorado Sun

Wildfires are a big enough threat in the West that federal lawmakers are trying to get ahead of future burns by spending $60 billion to shore up forest, grassland and watershed health before fires can clog rivers, disrupt economies and end lives.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Jason Crow, both Colorado Democrats, on Tuesday introduced a bill, known as the Protect the West Act, that would establish a grant fund to help reduce wildfire risk, restore forests and watersheds, expand outdoor access and improve wildlife habitats.

“If it passed, we would reorient our focus on the condition of watersheds and … national forests in the West from a reactive, emergency-responsive posture to a posture where we’re making thoughtful and collaborative investments on the front end,” Bennet told The Colorado Sun.

Of the $60 billion, $40 billion would support federal partnerships with states and tribes to tackle the backlog of restoration and fire mitigation projects. The remaining $20 billion would be available to state and local governments, tribes, special districts and nonprofits.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Ron Wyden of Oregon, both Democrats, is designed to supplement, not duplicate or replace, existing federal funding, like the $8.3 billion set aside for Western water projects in the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021. 

Read the full story at The Colorado Sun.

More Like This, Tap A Topic

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.