“If we don’t work to thin our forests now, our nation will continue to suffer from the devastating effects of catastrophic wildfires including loss of life, property as well as contamination of our air and watersheds.” ~Chairman Paul Gosar
The Congressional Western Congress (CWC) is calling for “Bipartisan Forestry Management Reform to Prevent Catastrophic Wildfires.” Beyond simple cooperation between members of differing political parties, the CWC is hoping to use the facts surrounding America’s wildfire crisis to bring about dramatic changes in forest management and related policies. In its latest press release, the CWC applauds the national response to this year’s hurricane devastation, while pointing out the perennial destruction to millions of acres of forests, productive lands, and communities caused by wildfires.
Americans have become inured to the ‘new normal’ of tens of millions of acres burned, countless lives changed and billions of dollars in property and production lost each year as a result of wildfires, many of which occur on federally-controlled lands in the West. But this new normal is not necessarily natural, and members of CWC are calling for new approaches to forest management to ensure that future wildfires are smaller, more manageable less destructive, and less costly. More local and tribal government control over forest management and fuels-reduction, removing barriers to timber sales, and increased grazing in National Forests are among the solutions suggested by CWC as well as those who testified in the most recent hearing addressing the wildfire crisis. See the video below.
As seen below, as timber harvests decrease in national forests, wildfires and related costs increase dramatically.
National Forest management is suffering due to the percentage of annual funding that must be applied to fighting wildfires. Active forest fuel reduction practices, including logging, clearing, and grazing, need to be applied proactively in order to reverse this unsustainable trend.
Comments by CWC members regarding wildfire crisis causes and solutions are quoted:
Chairman Paul Gosar ( AZ) “Backwards forest management policies have caucused public land management agencies to allocate time, energy and resources on the back-end trying to put out massive wildfires that are already blazing. Anyone with a medical background knows the importance of working to prevent a problem, rather than just treating it. The same principle applied in this context could save the Forest Service and taxpayers billions of dollars. It would also offer some peace of mind to the millions of people across the country affected and displaced by raging wildfires every year. If we don’t work to thin our forests now—as my colleague Congressman Westerman’s bill would help accomplish–our nation will continue to suffer from the devastating effects of catastrophic wildfires including loss of life, property as well as contamination of our air and watersheds.”
Congressman Raul Labrador (ID) “The 2017 fire season set a new record for federal firefighting costs. But this year’s catastrophic fires are nothing new; in 2015, a record 10 million acres burned. If Congress ignores this clear and present danger and fails to take common-sense steps to remove fuels, restore sustainable logging and adequately fund fire suppression, the responsibility for future destruction falls on us. It’s time for the House to pass the Resilient Federal Forests Act and send it to the Senate.”
Congressman Scott Tipton (CO) “So far this year, the Forest Service has already spent more than $2.3 billion to fight wildfires, and dangerous fires continue to burn across the country. It is clear that the forest management strategy of the last few decades is not working, and I look forward to continuing to work as part of the Natural Resources Committee to advance sound policies that will allow the Forest Service to conserve our nation’s forests for future generations to enjoy.”
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA) “In Eastern Washington, we’ve seen the impact wildfires have on our communities. We live with them every year, and now, we must take action to reduce our risk of fire by promoting active forest management and by fixing ‘fire borrowing’ so the Forest Service has the ability to both manage forests and fight fires. I’m encouraged that the House Natural Resources Committee is holding this hearing and look forward to continuing our work towards healthier, actively managed forests.”
House Committee on Natural Resources hearing “Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations oversight hearing “Exploring Solutions to Reduce Risks of Catastrophic Wildfire and Improve Resiliency of National Forests”
Free Range Report