To watch a video of Chairman Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.
To watch a video of Chairman Manchin’s questioning, please click here.
Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on 12 forestry and wildfire bills, including the bipartisan More Hasty Response to Firefighting Act of 2022, introduced last week by U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. During the hearing, Chairman Manchin discussed the need for responding quickly and effectively to wildfires and the importance of growing the logging workforce to undertake proactive measures in the United States’ forests and public lands and reduce the risk of dangerous fires.
“The bills before us today demonstrate our shared interest in improving the condition of our nation’s forests and addressing our nation’s wildfire problem…Decades of fire suppression and reduced harvesting has led to historic buildup of vegetation or fuel load, which makes our forests unable to withstand the warming temperatures and drier conditions…It's non-negotiable at this point. We must get to work at changing the status quo. Both the health of our forests and the safety of our communities is at stake. I believe the legislation we have on the agenda today offers some creative comments and solutions for addressing these problems,” said Chairman Manchin.
During the hearing, Chairman Manchin questioned witnesses about how the bills would help address wildfires more rapidly, grow the logging and firefighting workforces, and ensure better stewardship of our forests and public lands.
Chairman Manchin also posed questions to the witnesses on changes in policy to increase retention in the Federal firefighting workforce.
“Are you all recognizing that there’s just an inequity there? I mean something has to change. I’m understanding if a firefighter takes more than a three-day break in service, and they’ve been there for over 20 years, they not only lose their retirement benefits, but they also lose all of the money they previously paid into the system, too.
“Let me ask you, are you all opposing the changes we would make if we codified and changed the law?…If you see the inequity here, the unfairness to this system, we can clarify it for you very quickly,” asked Chairman Manchin.
Mr. Rupert responded, “To your point I regularly hear from wildland firefighters that the three-day break in service has a real impact.”
Chairman Manchin pressed further, “And you all are compassionate about that?”
Mr. Crockett replied, “Yes, it is really important to our firefighters; and if we can get it figured out, it is going to make life easier for them.”
The hearing featured witnesses from USDA Forest Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Lyme Timber Company, and Family Farm Alliance. To read their testimony, click here.
To watch the hearing in full, please click here.