WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) sent a letter to President Trump calling for the use of science-based approaches to restore forest health and for a reversal of the $600 million cut to firefighting proposed in the President’s budget.
In the letter, Senator Cantwell argued that the government’s approach to managing wildfires is inadequate in the new era of intense wildfires we now face. Wildfires have already burned 2.2 million acres this year. This level of activity is 400 percent above normal, and the science tells us this trend will continue.
The Senator wrote, “Wildfires are serious business in the West and, increasingly, throughout our nation. I am writing to implore you to implement policies based on science to govern our country’s response to these potentially deadly blazes and to grow the economy of rural areas.”
Cantwell explained that underfunding the Federal wildland fire program will almost certainly force agencies to restart the practice of transferring funding from non-fire accounts to pay for the cost of managing fires. These transfers impose additional costs to companies due to delayed or cancelled projects and harm local communities that depend on National Forests operating efficiently. Cantwell called on President Trump to work with the appropriate Congressional committees to implement a permanent fire-budgeting fix this year.
Russ Vaagan of Vaagan Brothers Lumber said, "It is of critical importance that we fund and fight wildfires differently than we do now. Providing incentive for the Forest Service to focus on preparing and fighting fires instead of actively restoring our fire-prone forests will continue to result in large fires and more expense to the American people. We need a funding and management fix!"
“With fire activity increasing across the West, science-based approaches to restore landscape resilience, safeguard communities and improve wildlife habitat are needed now more than ever,” said Mitch Friedman, Executive Director of Conservation Northwest. “Congress must act to fund such programs.”
Cantwell also argued that cross-laminated timber and other innovative technologies are part of the solution for rural communities. Using products from restoration treatments to construct new buildings not only helps reduce emissions by sequestering carbon in wooden buildings, it expands rural economies and generates jobs.
Senator Cantwell concludes by asking President Trump to “heed the current science to guide your policy decisions around addressing wildfires. Successfully addressing the wildfire problem will make our communities safer, our local economies stronger, our forests healthier, and our country greater.”