Bennet calls on Congress to invest in restoring America’s forests to mitigate wildfires

On Thursday, May 20, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources, called on Congress to invest in restoring America’s forests to help mitigate wildfires and build climate resilience. Bennet introduced Dr. Tony Cheng, the Director of the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute and a Professor of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship at Colorado State University, who testified at the hearing.   

“As Dr. Cheng noted in his testimony, climate change is delivering a double blow to forests in Colorado and across the West,” said Bennet. “This puts our communities and watersheds at risk and comes at a high cost for state and local governments. As we heard from the witnesses today, we need a strategic, long term investment in our forests – and the communities around them – to reduce the risk of wildfire and build climate resilience.” 

Last fall, Colorado saw the three largest wildfires in state history. Bennet continues to lead on several bills aimed at restoring America’s forests and protecting watersheds. Dr. Cheng voiced his support today for multiple Bennet-backed proposals, including the Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act, the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership Act, and the REPLANT Act.  

A leader on forestry and conservation issues for over a decade in the U.S. Senate, Bennet has worked to end fire borrowing and provide the U.S Forest Service with the necessary tools to improve forest and watershed health. In the 2014 Farm Bill, Bennet led development of the conservation and forestry title, which expanded Good Neighbor Authority nationwide, following a successful pilot program in Colorado, and expedited treatment of forests affected by insects or disease. For years, Bennet introduced the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (WDFA), which provided the framework for the fire funding fix that Bennet secured in the 2018 Omnibus. In the 2018 Farm Bill, Bennet led the effort to maintain full conservation funding, place a greater emphasis on climate and drought, and secure new resources for our national forests.  

Bennet’s work on forestry and conservation is informed and inspired by Coloradans’ experiences and ideas. Last fall, Bennet convened the Western Climate Resilience Roundtable with Dr. Cheng and other Colorado leaders to develop a collaborative, consensus-driven set of priorities for western climate resilience. One of the groups three priorities was “Supporting healthy soils, forests, rangeland, rivers, and watersheds will make our communities more resilient and help maximize the climate mitigation potential of western landscapes.” 

Similarly, in 2014, Bennet convened a Fire and Forestry Summit in Colorado to bring together experts, including Dr. Cheng, to provide recommendations on how the federal government can better support Colorado’s wildfire mitigation and post-fire recovery efforts. From those conversations, Bennet drafted the PREPARE Act, a portion of which became the Wildfire Mitigation Assistance Act, to push for policy changes. Much of the PREPARE Act, including the entire Wildfire Mitigation Assistance Act, was signed into law in 2018. 

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