Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Fire mitigation funding slashed

The Gazette editorial Published: June 23, 2013

As fires burn throughout Colorado and other parts of the West, destroying homes and lives, know that President Barack Obama plans to make things worse.

The forest fire nightmare is sustained largely by poor maintenance of federal forestland. Efforts to contain fires, saving homes and lives, have been hampered by the president's decision to nearly eliminate the government's firefighting capacity. If that isn't enough, The Great Divider's forestry management cuts will help fund growing social programs, some of which he promotes with TV ads that advocate dependence on government.

Don't take our word for this. The Gazette has opposed the two elections of Obama, so we might have a dog in the hunt. Instead, read a few excerpts of an Associated Press story that ran in the Huffington Post, the Washington Post and other publications that advocated for Obama's victories.

"In real, inflation-adjusted dollars, the government is spending less on the Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program, run jointly by the Forest Service and the Interior Department, than it did in 2002," reads the story, with a Colorado Springs dateline. "And President Barack Obama has proposed a 31 percent cut for the fiscal year that begins in the fall."

President Obama's proposed slash of fire mitigation comes after his administration gutted the Forest Service's airborne fleet from 40 planes to 11 in 2011. Near-elimination of the fleet came one year before the Waldo Canyon fiasco, in which federal bureaucrats waited three days to deploy two of its handful of C-130s that sat idle at Peterson Air Force Base.

The AP story says Obama's budget cut will erode what little is left of the government's ability to prevent fires on its land: "Federal fire fighting officials say there is no question the program prevents some fires and makes others less dangerous to homeowners and firefighters alike."

So, based on the words of federal employees, the president's latest move will result in more fires.

The story continues: "The Forest Service says it must clear flammable materials from at least 65 million acres to tamp down the danger. The federal government is the primary landlord in the western United States, with responsibility for maintaining much of the open lands that burn during fire season."

The president's cuts to fire mitigation come after the country lost 9.3 million acres of forest to fires just last year. This year may be shaping up even worse, and eight of the country's 10 worst years for forest fires have occurred since 2000.

If ever there were a time to ramp up the government's fire mitigation and suppression efforts - to protect federal assets, private property and lives - it would be now. If there were a time to reallocate a bit of our government's social spending for the sake of public safety, it would be now. If the federal government is going to own and control 193 million acres of forest, it behooves President Obama to act as a dutiful steward. The government has a responsibility to prevent and contain fires on its land.

The Gazette has long advocated limited government and less federal spending. We don't want the federal government involving Americans in foreign wars with no direct nexus to protection of our country. We don't want Obamacare, federal pensions and countless social programs bloated to the point our economy cannot afford them.

Yet, we have long advocated that government play a key role in public safety. We particularly think the federal government should protect the public from fires, such as Waldo, that begin on federal land.

Before anyone chalks up Obama's fire prevention and containment cuts as righteous forms of austerity, consider that we spent $2 billion of the government's food-stamp budget to feed one-third of Puerto Rico. As we watch the forests burn, remember Vice President Joe Biden's two-day trip to London and Paris that cost $1 million-plus. Remember the truckload of caviar that was delivered to a Paris hotel, where Biden and company spent $585,000 in one night.

As you inhale the smoke and watch homes burn, know that cuts to fire mitigation will help fund record-high disability payments, much of which go to people who cannot work because of "mood disorders." Be glad that cuts to fire mitigation will help fund the $8 million we spend on a public relations contract to promote Obamacare. Take comfort knowing that Obama's cuts to fire mitigation will help fund the $4.5 billion that food stamp recipients spend on alcohol, diapers and condoms. Just know, as you watch the fires, that a March 29 report by the National Republican Congressional Committee details $42.6 billion in reckless spending so irritating it defies imagination.

Federal forests are a direct responsibility of the executive branch of government and the country's top executive is letting them burn. Meanwhile, the president spares no expense on White House trips and ad campaigns that tell Americans - and millions of foreigners - the government should provide them with food, shelter, clothing and income. When a majority voted for fundamental change, this is what we got.

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