Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) held a hearing to examine the Fiscal Year 2019 Forest Service Budget.
During the hearing, Senator Cantwell remarked that "Getting the wildfire-funding fix enacted into law is something that I…and Senator Wyden…and several members on this side of the aisle have fought for diligently—for many, many years. A tremendous amount of work went into this both inside and outside of our agencies…and so our thanks to everyone that was involved.”
“We know the weather is drier; we are seeing more fire starts, and we are seeing more homes destroyed. We want to make sure that you understand that now is not the time to cut research,”said Senator Cantwell. “To get ahead of the wildfire problem, we need robust science. The Forest Service’s Fire Lab in Seattle is an example of that kind of research.”
“The Fire Lab and this particular project [the Fire and Smoke Model Experiment] are funded by the Joint Fire Science Program—a program considered to be one of the best research programs in the Federal government,”said Senator Cantwell. “We are talking about $7 million of the Forest Service’s $3 billion fire budget—to operate this innovative program. So I am asking that we do everything we can to help protect it. Particularly, with the wildfire seasons we are facing, we need science, just as we need our assets.”
“[The Omnibus] also reauthorized Secure Rural Schools for two more years; I can’t tell you how important that is to the Pacific Northwest. This will ensure communities are not left without funding while we look to create permanent solutions,” said Senator Cantwell. “The package included language to make it easier for State agencies, like the Washington Department of Natural Resources, to partner with the Forest Service for the Good Neighbor program and for utilities to manage vegetation next to power lines.”
“Now, for the first-time, the Forest Service can issue contracts for 20 years to do thinning in fire-prone areas, and there is a preference for Cross-Laminated Timber. So rural communities in Washington stand to gain plenty from that new paradigm, hopefully treating fuels in our most challenging areas of Central Washington and the Northeast corners of our state,” said Senator Cantwell. “All of this we did while still protecting our public lands and existing environmental laws.”
“We need to continue to provide the resources that are [needed] because wildfire is going to continue to plague us. We have to get this right,” said Senator Cantwell.
The broadcast quality video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement can be found here.