Fire Ban Lifted in Colorado, Gov. Asks for Congressional Help

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After a wild and tragic start to the 2012 wildfire season, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has lifted a statewide fire ban, while at the same time encouraging congressional action to reduce the forest conditions that lead to catastrophic fires. Here are the details.

* The governor reported on Sunday that "Mother Nature is finally giving us some relief," following rainfall and cooler, wetter weather forecasts that have abated the extreme fire conditions in the state's 64 counties.

* More than 60 counties are expected to move to moderate or low fire danger over the next week, the governor's office stated, though wildfire season will continue for the next few months and some areas continue to experience high fire danger.

* Governor Hickenlooper issued the statewide fire ban via executive order on June 14, after 344 wildfires had been reported across the state. The ban prohibited open burning -- including campfires, warming fires, and charcoal grilled fires -- and private use of fireworks.

* According to the governor's office, all existing major wildfires in the state were contained and no new fires were being monitored or supported by the state Office of Emergency Management.

* On Monday, Governor Hickenlooper wrote a letter to the House Committee on Agriculture, asking for support of provisions in the U.S. House of Representative's version of the Farm Bill that "would be very helpful in addressing the forest conditions that lead to catastraphic wildfires" in the Western states.

* The provisions Hickenlooper referred to included stewardship contracting, which would allow removal of forest material to be converted to beneficial uses, thus reducing the fuel loads in western forests.

* The governor's letter stated that he strongly supports the reauthorization and expansion of good neighbor authority, which allows state foresters to perform fuels reduction treatment on federal forest lands adjacent to where treatments are occurring on non-federal lands.

* The governor also supports a provision for federal identification of critical areas on national forests where there is a high risk of wildfire and a streamlined process for review and implementation of thinning projects.

* Strategic planning -- another provision supported by the governor -- would require the U.S. Forest Service to provide Congress with an action or implementation plan on how it is addressing fire threats and regional variability. The governor asked that this plan be produced before the next fire season begins in May 2013.

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