Westerman Hosts Press Conference to Address Wildfire Crisis with Western Members of Congress
WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR-04) hosted a press conference Thursday (October 5) with western Members of Congress to address the wildfire crisis unfolding across the western United States. He was joined by House Natural Resources Committee Chair Rob Bishop (UT-01), House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (OR-02), Congressional Western Caucus Chair Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Congressmen Greg Gianforte (MT-At-Large), Raúl Labrador (ID-01), Doug LaMalfa (CA-04), Tom McClintock (CA-04), and Dan Newhouse (WA-04).
Westerman’s opening statement (as prepared):
“This year, multiple natural disasters have hit the United States, leaving billions of dollars in damages across a large swath of land. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have dominated the headlines. As Americans monitor television and online reports of hurricanes, there's little attention on the deadly and destructive fires across the West that have torched 8.5 million acres – nearly four times the land mass of Puerto Rico – sending millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere in massive smoke plumes that have closed schools, killed livestock, and created serious health issues for people living near and far from these fires.
“We have set a new record this year in fire suppression costs that broke the old record in 2015 that broke the previous record in 2012 that broke the previous record set in 2006. There is a pattern here, yet we fail to act. Forests continue to grow. Disease and insect infestations continue to spread. Fuel loads increase. Temperatures rise, humidity drops, and fires continue to explode in unmanaged forests.
“As a result, the Forest Service is forced to raid its management accounts in order to pay for firefighting costs, a practice known as “fire borrowing.” This leads to less management, which foster more frequent and intense fires. Simply put, this is unsustainable.
“It is time for Congress to wake up and address the crisis that continues to burn as we speak.
“I am calling on Congress to pass the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017. While ending fire borrowing, my bill gives the U.S. Forest Service the tools it needs to actively and scientifically manage our forests.
“There is no downside to a healthy forest. They clean the air, filter water, improve wildlife habitat, enhance plant and animal biodiversity, create scenic landscapes, and can be an economic driver in rural communities through multiple uses including sport, recreation, and timber production.”