The fight to stop wildfire borrowing continues

MY COLUMBIA BASIN
June 24, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C.

It’s a fight that’s gone on for too long in their opinion, but U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo (R-IDAHO) are not quitting their desire to reform the way the fight against wildfires are funded. The two issued a joint statement during a hearing on Thursday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Wyden says the issue should not be a fight between Democrats and Republicans.

“The issue of fixing fire borrowing has been a bipartisan issue for as long as we all have been working on it,” he said. “When Senator Crapo and I started on this journey, some thought fire borrowing was a Western problem looking for Western solutions. It’s now known, however, that shortchanging the Forest Service budget is a national problem.”

The process of fire borrowing sees the Forest Service having to take money from its wildfire prevention funding in order to fight ongoing blazes. Wyden and Crapo want the largest wildfire battles to be funded from federal disaster relief money.

“Fire borrowing has the attention of our colleagues from New York to Wisconsin – both states with forest lands – because even if they don’t suffer from the catastrophic fires in the West, fire borrowing robs timber projects, restoration logging, recreation and other forest projects in states across the country. All other forest work nationwide gets put on hold every time there is a significant fire season in the West.”

Wyden points out that 52 percent of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget goes to fighting wildfires. He said he and Crapo are aware that many of their colleagues in Congress want wildfire funding reforms to be coupled with broader forestry reforms. The senator expressed fear that the wildfire funding piece, with its broad bipartisan support, could get lost in that discussion.

“The Congress cannot in good conscience let another fire year go by, with lives and property at stake, without fixing this once and for all,” he said.

 

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