Democratic News

Apr 30 2002

Senate Energy Sets Hearing To Assess Fire Season Outlook, Preparedness

Bingaman Lauds Senate Farm Bill Conferees For Forestry Efforts, But Laments Removal of Popular Provisions by House Conferees

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will review the outlook for this year’s wildland fire season as well as assess the Federal land management agencies’ state of readiness for the fire season at a hearing on Tuesday, May 7, in Senate Dirksen 366, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday’s hearing coincides with the two-year anniversary of the devastating Cerro Grande Fire, which burned 47,000 acres and destroyed more than 400 homes in northern New Mexico. In a related matter, Bingaman praised Senate farm bill conferees for resisting attempts by House conferees to water down parts of the bill that protect rural people and property from serious forest fires. (Forest stewardship is within the jurisdiction of Bingaman’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.) He also faulted House conferees for stripping from the bill several broadly supported forestry measures. “The farm bill that passed in the Senate required that forest stewardship projects take place in areas where forests and residential areas are next to each other – an approach to reducing fire risks that would better protect rural communities,” Bingaman said. “The Senate’s efforts to address the needs of rural Americans was a sound, reasonable, bipartisan position, and it’s more than a little disappointing that the House conferees objected to this plan.” Bingaman said the Senate views on forest management had broad support from mainstream forestry and civic groups working to protect rural communities from forest fires and promote job creation/economic development. These groups are especially supportive of Senate efforts to ensure that the removal of forest by-products for fire prevention in timbered areas promotes long-term forest health and community stability. Bingaman noted that House conferees, in what appears to be retaliation for the disagreement over forest stewardship, stripped from the bill several unrelated, but popular, forestland measures. These include a program to protect forests threatened by urban sprawl, a provision that would allow for an independent investigation into forest firefighter fatalities, and a provision that seeks to find a cure for a disease that is killing oak trees. # # #