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Thune Fire-Fighting Legislation Passes Senate

Bill To Bring Together SD, ND, WY, and CO Forces in Fighting Fires Headed to House

July 13, 2007

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today announced S. 975, legislation that would allow South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado to enter into agreements to share resources and aid each other in fighting forest fires, passed the United States Senate by unanimous consent. In order for states to officially work together under such an agreement, Congressional approval is required.

Senator Thune introduced this bill on March 23, 2007. Co-sponsors of Senator Thune's legislation include Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Wayne Allard (R-CO), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Tim Johnson (D-SD), and the late Craig Thomas (R-WY).

"In South Dakota in 2006, there were more than 2,000 wildland fires that caused damage to more than 230,000 acres of land," Thune said. "This year we have already experienced the devastation that fire can bring with the Alabaugh Canyon Fire which burned over 10,000 acres and destroyed more than 35 homes. I saw this devastation firsthand earlier this week. While our firefighters and emergency response personnel in South Dakota are some of the most highly skilled in the country, we need to make sure they have the reinforcements they need when crises arise and there are simply not enough men and women on the ground to fight these extreme fires.

"My legislation would bring together the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado to join forces in fighting forest fires. This would create an interstate pact in which South Dakota could count on the help of other states when conditions reach crisis level. This type of pact is particularly important when we consider the severe drought conditions that this region has been dealing with over the last six years.

"With such agreements that help us plan and prepare for nature's most dangerous threats, we can keep families, businesses and South Dakota land safer and better protected."

Having originated at the state level, the fire compact requires Congressional approval to be officially recognized. Governor Mike Rounds requested federal action to authorize the formation of fire compacts with neighboring states.

"I applaud Governor Rounds for his initiative in taking proactive steps to increase the region's ability to combat forest fires," Thune said.

This legislation now will be sent to the House of Representatives for action and Senator Thune has been in touch with House leadership to expedite consideration so the legislation can be sent to President Bush and signed into law.