DENVER (KDVR) — The Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack toured an area of the Cameron Peak Fire with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Joe Neguse on Friday.
Colorado’s lawmakers met with the USDA secretary to discuss the need for long-term investments in efforts to prevent and recover from catastrophic wildfires.
“Cameron Peak was the largest wildfire in our state’s history and we know that the challenges our forests and communities face are only going to grow with time, so our attention to forest health, our climate and wildfire response abilities must grow in tandem,” Polis said. “Powering our Colorado comeback means learning from our past and caring for our beautiful lands with a focus on the future.”
The political leaders held a roundtable discussion on climate change, drought, conservation and soil health, the agricultural workforce, and other issues.
Bennet pitched his Outdoors Restoration Partnership Act to ensure protection of the state’s forest land and watershed, along with its surrounding communities. The act proposal was included in President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan.
“We have to protect our forests and invest in our watersheds —these are national assets. Secretary Vilsack understands that, and I’m glad he was here to see Colorado’s efforts and the forest health and wildfire recovery partnerships that exist in our state,” Bennet said. “Secretary Vilsack also understands that farmers and ranchers should be at the heart of American climate policy. I look forward to continuing to work with Secretary Vilsack and the Biden Administration to support Colorado producers as they continue to deal with drought and wildfire.”
Additional resources and funding for wildfire response including aid to firefighters and other personnel and providing necessary equipment were the focus of Neguse’s discussion with Vislack.
“The Cameron Peak fire damaged many homes and small businesses and put tremendous strain on our firefighters and emergency management officials. It’s crucial that we meet these historic wildfires with a proportionate response. That’s why we’ve proposed the launch of the 21st Century Civilian Climate Corps to bring needed resources to wildfire resiliency and watershed recovery projects and increase workforce capacity to support our wildland firefighters and wildfire suppression efforts,” Neguse said.
Colorado’s Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg joined the Colorado lawmakers and Vislack to represent the state’s agricultural producers and the challenges they face.
“Agricultural producers play a critical role in addressing the climate and conservation challenges facing our state and I am proud of the visionary, collaborative efforts of Colorado’s farmers and ranchers in stewarding the iconic and working lands of our state,” Greenberg said.
The Colorado Recovery Plan has allocated $13 million toward wildfire mitigation work and wildfire recovery, and $38.8 million toward suppression efforts including the purchase of a new fire-hawk helicopter.