Senator Benet visits County to discuss Forest Policy and Funding

photo courtesy of Senator Bennet’s Office | Senator Michael Bennet and Grand County Commissioner Merrit Linke discuss forest management.
photo courtesy of Senator Bennet’s Office | Senator Michael Bennet and Grand County Commissioner Merrit Linke discuss forest management.

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet surveyed damage to a watershed that flows into Grand Lake and the Blue Ridge prescribed burn area in Grand County yesterday with representatives from Northern Water, Colorado River District, the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Grand County, the Town of Grand Lake, Three Lakes Watershed Association, Middle Park Conservation District, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Bennet recently re-introduced his Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act to create jobs in the outdoors by investing in forest and watershed restoration. His proposal was included in President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan.

The Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act promises to provide direct support to local, collaborative efforts to mitigate wildfire, restore habitat, and expand outdoor access. It also promises to restore areas at high-risk of wildfire, with high priority wildlife habitat, or in
the wildland-urban interface––where homes and businesses meet wildland vegetation––to build climate resilience in the West.

“Last year, Colorado faced the three largest wildfires in state history. Across the country the threat of wildfire is growing, which comes at a terrible cost for communities like Grand Lake and Hot Sulphur Springs in Grand County,” said Bennet. “That’s exactly why we wrote the Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act––a comprehensive plan crafted hand in hand with Coloradans to improve forest conditions, reduce wildfire risk to communities, and protect our water supply. In passing this bill we can build climate resilience and create millions of good-paying jobs. With bipartisan support in the House and the support of the Biden Administration, we have a real opportunity to invest in our forests and watersheds and leave them better off for the next generation.”

“The Blue Ridge Forest Health Project is a wonderful example of a community working together with a multitude of partners to take a strategic look at wildfire risk reduction. No one entity can do this alone, which is why a project across all jurisdictions, that is science- and risk-based, will lead to more effective treatments and safer communities. The partners and community members in Grand County should be recognizedvfor sharing in the stewardship of their public and private lands. The continued commitment and support of elected officials such as Senator Bennet and Governor Polis for this work is truly what moves the results from ordinary to extraordinary,” said Frank Beum, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region.

“Senator Bennet appreciated the urgency that Grand Lake faces with fire recovery and mitigation,” said Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron. “We spoke about the funding imperatives for time sensitive projects, including protecting against post-fire flooding and the huge backlog of mitigation work on public and private lands so the impacts of fires in the future are less severe. I thank the senator for his commitment to addressing these critical issues and needs for our community.”

“Having joined Senator Bennet’s visit yesterday to a prescribed burn site on the Arapaho National Forest in Grand County, I was struck by the collaboration and partnership that is starting to take place regarding forest management,” said County Commissioner Merrit Linke.

“I believe that we are seeing a culture shift in our federal, state and local partners as we deal with devastating wildfires, impacted watersheds, and destruction of property. This culture shift in how forests are managed is not only out of necessity but also out of research and sound science. A holistic, landscape-based approach to forest management that includes fuels treatment, logging, grazing, and working with public and private partners can both reduce wildfire risks and better protect communities. This is a long term, proactive strategy that will have positive impacts far into the future.”

“I appreciate Senator Bennet and the Grand County Leadership for touring our property today to see the devastating burn scar from the East Troublesome Fire,” said Bill Mueller, property owner in Grand Lake. “We have a unique opportunity to work together
to enhance future management and mitigation work, helping to prevent another event similar
to what we saw last October.

I look forward to seeing the initiatives come together.”