Republican News

A group of Senators today announced a new effort to develop a comprehensive national strategy to prevent forest fires and address the troubling forest health conditions plaguing our federal forests. Senators Domenici, Feinstein, Kyl, Craig, Ensign, Burns, Murkowski, Wyden, Lincoln, Thomas, Enzi, Campbell, Gordon Smith, Stevens, Crapo and Bond released the following joint statement at a press conference this morning: “Much of America is a vast, dry tinderbox just waiting to explode. Federal land managers tell us that there is more land than in all of Texas at high risk of catastrophic fires unless something can be done to remove the dangerous buildup of fuels. We have struggled to deal with the federal forest health issues for the last decade to no avail. That simply must change. “We are on pace for a record fire season this year. As of yesterday we have burned an area the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. We’ve burned enough land to leave a 2 1/3 mile-wide strip of land from the U.S. Capitol to Los Angeles. More than 1,800 homes and buildings have gone up in smoke and the families of 15 brave firefighters have lost a loved one. But today, we still face at least two more months of fire season.” “The Forest Service has spent more than $700 million fighting these fires and will spend hundreds of millions more in fire rehabilitation costs. This will be the second time in three years that the U.S. taxpayer will be expected to pay more than a billion dollars just fighting fires, with little or no progress made on the problem. We can no longer allow the administrative processes to grind forest health management to a halt. We must deal with this problem and take an aggressive proactive approach to fire and forest management. “We will build a bipartisan coalition of Senators and propose legislation to allow management in the most important areas. We intend to protect the wildland-urban interface and municipal watersheds to the maximum extent possible. We also want to reduce fuels in high-risk areas. “We expect to deal with this problem using an ecosystem approach, rather than attempting to create safety strips around our rural communities. We have seen fires run 20 miles in a day. Clearly, the concept of safe zones around homes has become an anachronism. “The paralysis of the administrative system has resulted in too many examples where we watched forests destroyed by insects and disease, only to be finished off by fires. On the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, 600,000 acres of federal forested lands have been lost to insects in the last decade, yet the federal land managers have been unable to respond. Parts of the Black Hills of South Dakota are now released to forestry under the Emergency Supplemental. The lands around Lake Tahoe and in the Quincy Area of California all cry out for common sense, environmentally sound management. “Without active management we will be asking ourselves in a few short years where our forests have gone. As a group we have decided we are not going to wait to see what will happen – to see how many bad fire years we can accumulate before our forests are destroyed. “We have directed our staffs to develop a bipartisan solution to resolve these issues, to enable our federal land managers to correct these problems. We will be taking action this September and we urge all of our colleagues to join this bipartisan effort.” ### Contacts Sen. Pete Domenici Sarah Echols 224-7098 Sen. Diane Feinstein Scott Gerber 224-9629 Sen. Jon Kyl Matt Lattimer 224-2206 Sen. Larry Craig Will Hart 224-8078 Sen. Conrad Burns Eric Bovim 224-6137 Sen. Frank Murkowski Dave Woodruff 224-5861 Sen. Craig Thomas Beth Goudey 224-0608 Sen. Mike Enzi Coy Knobel 224-0109 Sen. Ben Campbell Camden Hubbard 224-5852 Sen. Gordon Smith Chris Matthews 224-8329 Sen. Kit Bond Brian Klippenstein 224-5721 Sen. Mike Crapo Arlen Lancaster 224-6142 Sen. John Ensign Shelly Camacho 224-6244