Westerman Leads Special Order on Western Wildfires
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) led four of his colleagues on the House floor for a special order on wildfires in the West. U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) and G.T. Thompson (R-Penn.) joined to share how wildfires are affecting their districts, and how to use sound forest management to mitigate their severity.
“Ever since I was elected to office, I’ve introduced legislation that would improve our ability to manage our nation’s forests,” Westerman said. “My career in forestry has shown me firsthand that this kind of scientific management not only makes trees healthier, but it also dramatically reduces wildfire severity. Now here we are again, watching wildfires tear through the West and decimate entire communities. Democrats repeatedly talk about how bad these fires are, but they offer no solutions to the problem. Where it’s applied, science-based forest management provides immediate relief and is a long-term tool for climate change mitigation. Congress has the power to equip land managers with essential resources and to remove legal barriers to fight wildfires before they even begin. Our action is long overdue, and we’re getting the exact results for which we have managed.”
“The endless cycle of catastrophic fire we are currently seeing across the West is not inevitable, it isn’t something we must just accept, there are steps that can be taken now to ensure that our communities are protected,” Gosar said. “It is up to Congress to take the lead and put active forest management at the forefront of protecting our communities. Members from both of sides of the aisle recognize that time is of the essence and I call on Congressional leadership to bring substantive forestry legislation to floor before the end of this Congress.”
“As the people of Central Washington – and many of my colleagues in Congress – understand: Healthy, resilient forests are the key to wildfire prevention,” Newhouse said. “We have made significant progress in recent years, but there is still much work to be done. Without leadership from Congress, families will continue to lose their homes, businesses and jobs will continue to be lost, and our public health will continue to be threatened. I have been proud to work alongside Rep. Westerman, who has served as a strong leader on reforming our forestry and land management policies, and I look forward to our continued collaboration on these vital issues.”
"Our forests are more than scenic backdrops," Thompson said. "Forest Service lands have been in dire need of active management, which will prevent fires, property damage, and loss of life."
To date, wildfires have burned 7.6 million U.S. acres in 2020. Seven million acres burned in 2018, 8 million acres burned in 2017, and 9 million acres burned in 2015. Every year Congress delays taking action on forest management, the problem worsens.
There are four major areas where management is most necessary:
- Wildland Urban Interfaces (WUIs), the area where communities and forests intersect. Nearly 40 million Americans now live in a WUI.
- Transportation corridors
- Transmission corridors (the 2018 Camp Fire started from a stray spark along a California transmission corridor)
- Critical watersheds
To initiate a federal response to this issue, Westerman has introduced legislation like the Resilient Federal Forests Act and the Trillion Trees Act, which would equip both public and private land managers with essential resources to clear brush and low-quality trees, making residual trees more resistant to wildfires and pests.
To watch Westerman’s full floor speech, click here.