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Obama pitches wildfire plan to governors

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — President Barack Obama on Monday encouraged a
group of governors to support a plan to pay for wildfire suppression, and the
proposal got a positive reception from the 10 leaders gathered for an annual

Obama made the pitch by telephone to governors meeting in Colorado Springs at
the Western Governors Association conference. Under the plan, the federal
government would budget money for fighting wildfires instead of raiding funding
allocated for mitigation efforts.

The change is pending in Congress, and Obama encouraged the governors to urge

Fighting wildfires this year will cost about $1.8 billion, Agriculture
Department Secretary Tom Vilsack told the governors on the call. That’s $470
million more than Congress has budgeted.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Vilsack repeated the
administration’s argument that it’s better to directly budget money for
firefighting than to shift money from prevention efforts.

“That’s precisely the money that we would use to do the kind of wildland,
wildfire preparedness, forest restoration and other activities that over time
would reduce the risk of these fires, or at least reduce the intensity of
them,” Vilsack said.

The governors got a report from the Agriculture Department showing what
prevention projects in their states have been delayed because of funding shifts.

“I think it really does make sense to actually dedicate the money to putting
out the fires and not robbing from the mitigation efforts,” Montana Gov. Steve
Bullock said.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said governors would urge Congress to support
the plan, “and make sure that they recognize that an ounce of prevention is
worth a pound of cure.”

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy was expected to
speak to the governors on Tuesday, a week after announcing big cuts in pollution
produced by the country’s power plants.

Other governors attending the conference are Jan Brewer of Arizona, C.L.
“Butch” Otter of Idaho, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Jack Dalrymple of North
Dakota, Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, Gary Herbert of Utah and Matt Mead from


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