Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released a new white paper that outlines legislative principles to address the biggest issues in wildfire management. The paper previews what concepts may be included in the soon-to-be-released Wildfire Management Act of 2015, a bill that seeks to change how we prevent and fight wildfires.
“The science is clearly telling us that wildfires are not behaving the same way they have for the past several decades,” Sen. Cantwell said. “We cannot keep using the same, tired approaches that we have for the last 100 years. We need to make sure that we are focusing on getting different results. Common sense tells us that our response needs be modified now that the problem is different.”
Read The Wildfire Management Act of 2015: A White Paper.
The six problems to be addressed in the bill include:
1) Too many homes are being lost to wildfires. Sometimes this is due to the increased frequency of unnaturally large fires. Other times, it is due to the construction or maintenance needs around the houses themselves.
2) “Good” fire needs to be carefully managed and returned to our nation’s landscapes, to help ensure the safety of neighborhoods in outlying areas and to restore the functioning of many of our ecosystems.
3) The funding of federal agencies is insufficient to rectify the current situation, both because of the way in which fires are budgeted and because sometimes agencies do not focus their funding in the places that need it the most.
4) The government will always need to fight undesirable fires. However, we need to decide what our fire management tools and responses should look like proactively, and how they should line up with other strategies.
5) Scarce firefighting resources are currently chasing every wildfire. We need to define where we expect the federal agencies to show up and how.
6) The federal government needs to show up quickly and be able to help communities in meaningful ways when they are at their time of greatest need—after experiencing a natural disaster, such as a large wildfire.
The senator will continue to work with a bipartisan group of senators to develop these principles into actionable legislation and remains committed to cost-effective, beneficial reforms to wildfire management.