WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, members of the Congressional Western Caucus issued a bipartisan press release urging inclusion of key forestry provisions in the final version of the Farm Bill and condemning obstruction of active management policies by Senate Democrats:
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01): "Following one of the most devastating wildfires in our nation’s history, it’s absolutely critical that House-passed forestry provisions are included in the final Farm Bill – and it’s absurd that some of my colleagues would oppose them. In my district alone, the destruction has been immense. In July, the Carr Fire engulfed 229,651 acres, destroyed over 1,600 structures, and took 8 lives. Now, we’ve only just begun recovery from an even more devastating fire – the Camp Fire – which has become both the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. Over 18,000 residential and commercial structures have been destroyed by a fire that consumed 153,336 acres and almost entirely destroyed the town of Paradise and surrounding areas. So far, 88 people have lost their lives, with hundreds more still missing. We must prevent similar tragedies from occurring again, and we can do that by properly managing our forests – which have become overgrown, overcrowded, and are now more combustible than ever. This is a problem with a clear, actionable solution. These provisions will help protect our environment, improve air quality, and save lives – preventing their inclusion in the Farm Bill would be nothing short of irresponsible. I invite any Farm Bill Conferees who may remain skeptical of these critical reforms to visit my district and see firsthand in order to better understand the devastation these fires have caused.”
Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR-05): "This Congress made some positive strides in the fight against wildfire destruction, but there’s more that needs to be addressed and now, as the 115th Congress comes to a close, is our opportunity to usher some of these solutions across the finish line. Without better stewardship, our forests remain susceptible to insects and disease, leaving them ripe for catastrophic wildfires. It hardly need to be stated, as the country watched the toll of the Camp Fire on California’s communities this month, that record breaking wildfires have become the new norm across the west. The current laissez-faire approach to forest management clearly does not cut it."
Chief Infrastructure and Forestry Officer Bruce Westerman (AR-04): "It is time for Senate Democrats to stop playing politics with people’s lives and property. For far too long, our federal forests have been grossly mismanaged, exacerbating the catastrophic wildfires across the West. The forestry title in the House Farm Bill addresses these issues in a scientifically-sound manner, including a provision which would require the Forest Service to balance the harms of action versus no action in managing our forests. Already in the House, Democrats and Republicans joined together in passing many of the provisions in this bill’s forestry title. We must act now – Republicans and Democrats – to actively manage our forests and bring an end to the preventable cycle of destruction of lives and property."
Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01): "Congress can take action right now to improve the management of our forests and reduce future catastrophic damage. I urge my colleagues in both chambers to include meaningful, scientifically proven forestry reform in the Farm Bill so we can save lives and prevent wildfires before they begin."
Rep. Greg Gianforte (MT-At Large): "Tragically, the Camp Fire in California has claimed the lives of 88 people, and hundreds remain missing. The wildfire has consumed more than 150,000 acres and left more than 13,000 families without homes. Last year, more than 1.2 million acres burned in Montana, leaving air quality dangerous with ash hanging in the air. Congress must act now. Our communities can’t afford to wait any longer as Senate Democrats dawdle on meaningful forest management reforms in the Farm Bill that will reduce the severity of our wildfires, improve air quality, boost the health of our forests and wildlife habitats, as well as create good-paying jobs. I urge Senate Democrats to put the health and safety of our communities first and include commonsense forest management reforms in the Farm Bill."
Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): "The widespread destruction that has occurred during this wildfire season is too devastating to ignore and too tragic to not act. The Farm Bill Conference Committee owes it to first responders and to the victims of wildfires to include active management provisions in the Farm Bill. The Camp Fire only highlights the dire need for these reforms that will save lives and protect communities. Years of mismanagement has left our forests vulnerable to insects and disease and ripe for catastrophic wildfires. This flawed approach causes us to spend billions of dollars on the backend to suppress fire, neglecting hazardous fuels reduction and putting our communities at increasing risk of catastrophic fire. The system is broken. Our communities need forest management reforms and we need them now. This is a matter of life and death."
Executive Vice Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03): "This has been one of the most deadly and destructive wildfire seasons to date. The large and frequent wildfires that we have seen this year in the Western U.S. are the consequence of decades of misguided forest management strategies, which have left federal land management agencies focused on firefighting rather than on proactive forest management to prevent these disasters from occurring in the first place. It is high time that we stop being reactive to wildfires and focus greater resources on proactive forest management. I urge Senate Democrats to put partisan politics aside and work to quickly pass a Farm Bill which includes strong forest management provisions that empower agencies to work together to remove dead and downed timber, mitigate disease infected trees, reduce hazardous fuels and improve watershed health."
Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-04): "In the name of protecting endangered species, we have banned tried and true forest management practices on more and more land, resulting only in the loss of those animals and the destruction of countless lives and homes. These byzantine laws and regulations, administered by ideological zealots, have caused California’s forests to become dangerously overcrowded and overgrown. Contrary to special-interest fear-mongering, signing into law these House-passed forestry provisions is the only way to avoid future tragedies like the Camp Fire."
Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-50): "I know firsthand the devastating effects wildfires have on our community, both on victims personally and on the region economically. We have to implement policies that allow for the dual goals of both conservation and preparedness; this is not mission impossible, it is very achievable. These forestry management provisions in the House farm bill accomplish these important goals in a reasonable and responsible manner, and Senate Democrats who refuse to negotiate on this issue are sending a very clear message to fire victims and those living in fire-prone areas that they care more about environmental politics than the actual environment itself or the safety of millions of Americans."
Rep. Kevin Cramer (ND-At Large): "We are so close to a compromise Farm Bill before the end of this Congress and it’s unthinkable to me Senate Democrats continue to resist these reasonable forest management reforms which includes bipartisan language I’ve sponsored for vegetation management near utility infrastructure. These are on-the-ground science based proposals to prevent or at least limit forest fires to protect air quality, property, and human lives which will not devastate forests."
Rep. Ron Estes (KS-04): "The House-passed Farm Bill included important forest management measures that can help reduce the outbreak of wildfires. From Kansas to California and throughout our country, wildfires have caused catastrophic damage. I urge the U.S. Senate to include active forestry management in the final Farm Bill to help save property and lives. Now more than ever, Americans need a comprehensive Farm Bill that addresses wildfires, supports our farmers, and gets people back to work to grow our economy."
Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO-05): "The west has suffered from some of the most destructive wildfires to date. As a result of over 52,000 wildfires, 8.5 million acres have been burned this year alone. We must protect our forests, and we can do so through active forest management. It’s a scientifically proven fact that properly maintaining a forest improves its health and helps save our environment. More importantly, decreasing wildfires helps save innocent people whose lives are at risk, particularly in western states like Colorado. That’s why I support common-sense provisions that empower our local communities and the Forest Service in the Farm Bill."
Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01): "Federal mismanagement of our forests has led to another catastrophic wildfire season. We need to change how we approach fire suppression and strengthen forest management practices. The House-passed Farm Bill includes multiple responsible provisions to accomplish this by permitting active management of our nation’s forests. It is non-controversial to permit land managers to remove insect infested timber, dense brush, and dead trees that act as kindling during wildfires. We have the opportunity to pass meaningful reforms that would not only save forests, but also save lives, and we need to do it now."
The House-passed Farm Bill includes 10 categorical exclusions that allow for active management of our nation’s forests and critical response. The base bill also reauthorizes the Landscape Scale Restoration Program. Several important Western Caucus forestry amendments also passed the House including Rep. Gianforte’s wildfire salvage operations Amendment, Rep. Westerman (AR-04) Balance of Harms & Action/No Action Amendment which requires that the costs of inaction be weighed and also provides injunctive relief and Chairman Gosar’s Good Neighbor Authority for Counties Amendment. To view our press release from June following passage of the farm bill in the House, click HERE.
40 bipartisan Members of the House previously sent a letter to Farm Bill Conferees urging conferees and Leadership to include active forest management provisions in the final version of the Farm Bill. To view that letter, click HERE. To view the accompanying press release, click HERE.
Last fiscal year, the Forest Service spent more than $2.5 billion on suppression costs - a new record. Nine times in the last 13 years, the Forest Service has moved funds from other operating accounts to fight fire, depleting accounts for forest management in the process that would help prevent catastrophic wildfires.
The House Committee on Natural Resources has pointed out that “despite data from the FS indicating that active forest management reduces wildfire intensity and improves forest health, only 1 to 2% of high risk areas are treated.” In fact, the Committee has reported that hazardous fuels are accumulating three times as fast as they can be treated and that the FS only harvested 2.5 billion board feet in 2016 compared to over 10 billion board feet in 1990. To make matters worse, litigation and other challenges have caused a significant reduction in active saw mills nationwide, from 1,311 in 1995 to just over 220 today.
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