U.S. Sen. Bennet discusses mitigation priorities with outdoor recreation leaders

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COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet made a stop in Colorado Springs on Thursday. He spoke with the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance members about his legislation to invest in forest and watershed restoration across the west.

The 60 billion dollar bill would create over two million outdoor jobs and reduce wildfire risk, according to Sen. Bennet.

“Fire doesn’t know any political boundaries or jurisdictions or respect any political boundaries or jurisdictions and just like this group represents a cross-section of people that are concerned with this ecosystem,” Sen. Bennet said.

He introduced the Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act in April, which would create over two million jobs in the outdoors by investing in forest and watershed restoration.

“We are better off spending the money mitigating the risk of fire on the front end than paying the incredibly expensive cost of fighting the fires on the back end,” Sen. Bennet explained.

The Senator said one acre of land mitigation would cost around $1,500 to $2,000 compared to $50,000 to put out a fire and restore the land. He’s been making his case to eastern politicians to look at this as infrastructure.

“I keep telling Chuck Schumer this is important to me as the Lincoln tunnel is to you, and that is what you need to think about it,” Sen. Bennet added.

Outdoor recreation is one of Colorado’s largest parts of the economy, and outdoor recreation leaders want to protect it.

“I’m hoping with some federal support, we can start to mitigate some of that whether that is wildfires, whether it’s trash, there is a lot of things that could be accomplished if we could get some money,” Executive Director of Colorado Springs Trails & Open Space Coalition Susan Davies said.

According to the city of Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods has already had more than 200,000 visitors this year than at this time last year, and they expect that number to grow.

“We want people to come, we want people to come back, we want them to have a great experience, but we want them to leave it the way they found it,” Davies added.

Sen. Bennet said more than half of the Forest Services budget is spent on fire fighting. The city plans on having a program where volunteers will keep the trails and open spaces clean and visitors mindful of fire risks.

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