Following news that a private air tanker company has protested the U.S. Forest Service’s recent contract awards for up to seven next-generation tankers, Mark Udall called on the federal government to override the protests because Colorado lives and homes are at stake. Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and has fought to acquire these new air tankers, said this latest round of protests would delay the U.S. Forest Service’s acquisition of these crucial air tankers until after the 2013 wildfire season.

“Wildfire season is coming, and I refuse to force Colorado communities to watch as preventable and containable wildfires are allowed to threaten lives and homes simply because of contractors’ squabbles. Make no mistake about it: This is an emergency, and this shortsighted protest will leave the U.S. Forest Service with outdated, Korean War-era air tankers to fight modern mega-fires,” Udall said. “That’s why I am calling on the U.S. Forest Service to override the protest filed this week and move forward with its next-generation air tankers contracts. Lives and homes are at stake, and I refuse to stand idly by as red tape suffocates any chance of the U.S. Forest Service finally acquiring these much-needed air tankers.”

Following the contract awards earlier this month, Udall cautioned private contractors that “Needless and costly delays will leave the Forest Service to fight modern mega-fires in the coming months with Korean War-era planes.”

Udall has been a leading voice for ensuring that Colorado and the West have adequate resources to prepare for the threat of wildfire, including pressing the U.S. Air Force to quickly transfer and repurpose excess aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires. Udall also pushed to pass a bipartisan amendment to the U.S. Senate’s 2014 budget to allocate $100 million more for wildland firefighting and he successfully secured federal funds to repair drinking-water supplies damaged by 2012’s Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.