To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.
To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore testified before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about the Administration’s budget request for the U.S. Forest Service for Fiscal Year 2023. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Committee, underscored the need for the U.S. Forest Service to address the staffing shortages preventing the agency from fulfilling its responsibilities.
“In the Infrastructure-funding spending-plan that you included with your budget request, I saw over and over that the biggest challenge you are facing to spending this money are ‘shortages of acquisition and procurement staff, grants and agreements staff, and National Forest program staff responsible for the implementation of the activities outlined,’” said Chairman Manchin. “I am sure we will discuss this morning how long you believe it will take for you to ramp up your capacity to spend this money, but I hope it is soon. The fire season is well underway out West; and the government must carry out these important treatments as soon as possible.”
During the hearing, Chairman Manchin questioned Chief Moore about why cuts were proposed to the agency’s deferred maintenance program, despite an increase in funding provided by Congress in the Great American Outdoors Act to address maintenance backlogs.
“In 2019, the Forest Service’s deferred maintenance backlog was $5.2 billion. In 2021, that number increased to $5.9 billion, and now the Forest Service estimates the backlog is at $6.3 billion. In spite of this, the budget proposes to reduce your annual funding for improving and maintaining your facilities, roads and trails by 12%. Two years ago, we enacted the Great American Outdoors Act, providing you an additional $285 million annually for five years to address your deferred maintenance backlog. I just have a hard time understanding now why you were reducing the budget when we identified a backlog,” said Chairman Manchin.
“There still is a backlog, and deferred maintenance, by the way, is still a priority of ours,” said Chief Moore.
“The budget increased almost every other Forest Service program… It just doesn’t make sense why you [made cuts to the deferred maintenance program], and why this is the one you’re sacrificing,” Chairman Manchin said.
Finally, Chairman Manchin questioned Chief Moore on the Forest Service’s 90-day prescribed fire pause, and highlighted the need for the agency to consider a new, commonsense “Good Samaritan” firefighting policy.
To read Chief Moore’s testimony, please click here.
To watch the hearing in full, please click here.