(CN) — A committee in the Colorado House moved three wildfire mitigation bills forward on Thursday that would collectively invest $27 million through 2024 in local wildfire prevention and recovery.
“From last summer’s wildfires which polluted our air to the Marshall Fire which left unprecedented destruction, we need to do more,” said Rep. Lisa Cutter, a Democrat from Jefferson, who sponsored two of the bills. “Our state wildfire mitigation is underfunded by $4.1 billion.”
Passing the house Energy and Environment committee 9-3, HB22-1011 Wildfire Mitigation Incentives for Local Governments, would appropriate $6.8 million this year and $20 million in fiscal year 2023 a grant program matching 20% of municipal and county level fire mitigation spending.
Sponsored by two Democrats each in the House and Senate, the bill came recommended from the state’s Wildfire Reviews Committee.
“I think we’re all aware of what’s going on in Colorado, especially from the Marshall Fire, no neighborhood is immune from the damage of wildfire,” said Rep. Marc Snyder, a Democrat from El Paso, one of the bill’s sponsors. “We learned, or should have learned, lessons about wildfire mitigation, especially along the wildland urban interface."
The 6,000-acre Marshall Fire that destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and businesses in December was one of several recent fires discussed in the hearing. Five of the state’s worst fires were recorded in 2020, including the devastating 208,000-acre Cameron Peak Fire.
“I don’t need to tell you that climate change and poor forest management have combined to create a terrible situation, because this is the third wildfire bill on your agenda today,” said Clear Creek County Commissioner George Marlin, testifying in support of the bill. “In spite of the intense interest on this topic, the reality is mitigation is so expensive we could never do it on our own.”
Passing the committee 11-1, the Democrat-sponsored HB22-1012 Wildfire Mitigation and Recovery adds a new carbon-reduction grant to the state’s existing Forest Restoration Wildfire Risk Mitigation program. On top of the program’s current $8 million budget, the new grant would allocate $59,600 this year and $70,443 in fiscal year 2023 funding the equipment and labor needed to clear wildfire debris and plant new trees.
The panel additionally approved HB22-1007 Assistance Landowner Wildfire Mitigation replacing an income tax deduction with a state tax credit to incentivize wildfire mitigation efforts. The measure is expected to reduce annual state tax revenue by $125,000 this year, and $250,000 in fiscal year 2023. The measure is supported by bipartisan sponsors in the House and Senate.
All three bills have been assigned to the House Appropriations Committee for discussion.
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