Republican News

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Frank H. Murkowski, Ranking Member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today released the following statement on the need for a new forest fire policy for the nation. “As we watch the West burn, I am concerned that increasingly, fire season means disaster season. Too many American dreams are going up in smoke. It does not have to be that way. Responsible forest management will benefit everyone. There must not be an ‘either or’ in this equation. “But this fire season should not come as a shock. In May this committee discussed the potential for a record-breaking fire year. The Administration’s National Fire Team warned us of what might happen. More importantly, they indicated that a new revised fire plan would be released shortly. We still await its release. “In Alaska, we are still sitting on a tinderbox on the Kenai Peninsula. The spruce bark beetle has left many forests ripe for disaster. Many of the dead trees occupy lands managed by the Fish & Wildlife Service. The Service ought to be seriously concerned about wildlife and fish habitat in that area. We need to give the Service the authority and the funding to address this problem before another family watches its future go up in smoke. “Possibly the most troubling is the Forest Services reports on process gridlock, appeals and litigation. We've heard the arguments about the GAO Report on Appeals and Litigation, as well as the Forest Service's response that 48% of the National Fire Plan mechanical harvesting projects are appealed. Mr. Chairman, we can fight over whether or not to count the prescribe burns when assessing appeals, but the bottom line is we will not get ahead of this forest health crisis unless we utilize some harvesting to reduce the fuels before we burn these stands. Thus, the fact that 48% of these harvest projects are delayed by appeals and litigation is extremely problematic. “These factors have seriously contributed to the fire problem , and we must devise a plan to fix that problem. Mechanical thinning and timber harvesting could decrease the intensity of these fires with great benefit to the land, the fire fighters, and our communities. “The nation needs a new policy that will protect: our forests, the creatures that live in the forests, the communities that depend on the forests, and the professionals who risk their lives protecting the forests. Without a new fire management policy, we can expect more of the same. And that is unacceptable.” ###