We were taken aback a couple of weeks ago to see freshman Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado call for an investigation into the possibility–based on nothing but uninformed speculation–that federal roadless area policies (meaning “the government”) might have contributed to the High Park Fire that ravaged the mountains above Fort Collins. Gardner admitted that he didn’t know “whether or not” these policies had a thing to do with the fire, but that didn’t stop him from baselessly raising “the possibility.” After a great deal of criticism, Gardner appears to have backed off of this request–or at least isn’t discussing it publicly as much.
Today, the Colorado Springs Gazette published an editorial titled “Obama shrunk aerial firefighting fleet,” which actually attempts to lay at least partial blame for the wildfire terrorizing the city’s residents at the feet of Barack Obama’s administration. “As fire rages out of control on the edge of Colorado Springs,” writes editor Wayne Laugesen, “threatening lives and property, it is time we listen to those who have warned us about the negative effect environmentalists and President Barack Obama have had on the federal government’s ability to fight fires.”
The truth? Most of those firefighting planes were grounded during the Bush administration.
The fleet numbered 44 planes a decade ago. A series of high-profile crashes, including wings that fell off a privately-owned C-130 and a 1940s-era PB4Y-2 Privateer in midflight, caused the Forest Service to ground 33 air tankers in 2004. [Pols emphasis]
A contract with another federal contractor, Aero Union, was canceled last year due to safety concerns, grounding 8 more tankers. Military C-130 firefighting aircraft are now being deployed here to help make up the gap, and President Obama recently signed legislation to contract a new generation of aerial tankers. But the Gazette doesn’t even try to get these details straight. It’s one thing to discuss the politics of a natural disaster. But to so brazenly mislead one’s readers about this while their homes are burning down is truly breathtaking.
And if Republicans want to politicize wildfire preparedness, is turnabout fair play?
[T]he economic downturn and a Congress dominated by Republicans who want to shrink the role of government make it extremely complicated to divert more funds to forest fighting.
Instead, funding for preventing and putting out wildfires has fallen by $512m, or about 15%, since 2010. [Pols emphasis]
Campaigners say that leaves the federal government agencies responsible for preventing and putting out wildfires under-funded – especially given projections suggesting a rise in wildfires over the next 20 years.
The resources for fighting fires in Colorado are so bad that a delegation was formed by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R 3d CD), Rep. Cory Gardner (R 4th CD), and Rep, Mike Coffman (R 6th CD) demanding the federal government provide more funds and equipment to help fight the expanding fires.
It’s unfortunate that all three of these U.S. Representatives demanding help for their home state also voted for the Paul Ryan budget cuts which [would have] drastically reduced the funding for the federal firefighting program.
Folks, this could be one of the most disgraceful, hypocritical, and downright Orwellian moments of absurdity we have ever witnessed in Colorado politics. The very same legislators who have voted to slash funding for firefighting are now blaming “big government” Obama for a lack of resources? It is perhaps most disturbing to see this going on with no challenge from, and even abetted by, our local media. Who will tell the truth to a frightened and manipulable public?
On an objective, nonpartisan level, this should not be acceptable.