Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Colorado legislature addresses wildfire

The Colorado legislature is considering several bills related to wildfire.

SB 20. In Colorado, the existing law identifies the county sheriff as the official "fire warden" and is the person responsible for suppressing wildfires on private and state lands within their county. (Wyoming has a similar law.) This bill states that the fire authority of each city or county would be the "emergency response authority for wild land fires" unless designated otherwise. Oddly, in newspaper accounts this is described as a "chain of command", but the bill only identifies one position, the "emergency response authority"; apparently a one-link chain. The Colorado State Forest Service would be responsible for fires on state-owned land. The bill also requires each county to develop a wildfire preparedness plan.

Other bills that have been introduced include SB 18 (grants to communities for thinning forests), and HB 1199 (a variety of projects and loans to prevent fires).

Rick Cables, the Regional Forester for the U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Region, in testimony before the legislature's agriculture committees last week, advocated charging a fee to urban water users to be used for protecting the vegetation in the high-altitude watersheds. Cables was quoted as saying:
"If we could add 50 cents a month to the water users in Denver, that generates $6 million a year to invest in the watershed. And if we get Las Vegas and Phoenix and Los Angeles on board, it could be 10 cents a month, or 5."

Thanks Chuck.

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