Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing to examine the discussion draft of the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017.
The hearing featured testimony from Bill Crasper, state forester for Wyoming State Forestry Division; Miles Moretti, president and chief executive officer of Mule Deer Foundation; and Dylan Kruse, policy director for Sustainable Northwest.
For more information on their testimonies click here.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Today we are having a hearing on the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017 discussion draft.
“The discussion draft we consider today focuses specifically on issues that have been referred to this committee.
“It combines tools for habitat conservation for mule deer, sage grouse, and other wildlife, and streamlined processes for addressing specific areas that need immediate attention.
“The three titles include bipartisan initiatives from 6 different members, and represent many months, if not years, of work to give land managers the tools they need to prevent catastrophic wildfires.
“It does not include a budget fix, for the simple reason that budget issues are outside of the jurisdiction of this committee.
“Ultimately, a budget fix should be paired with tools to reduce forest density for improved wildlife habitat and healthier forests, and the ability to react quickly to mitigate environmental harms after a fire.
“On September 27th, this committee held its first hearing on the catastrophic damage caused by wildfires across our country.
“We heard testimony of homes burned, children unable to attend school because of poor air quality, damaged city water supplies, and historic forests destruction.
“Since that hearing fires have continued to burn in California and across the West, with devastating effect.
“According to the latest numbers from the USDA year-to-date, there have been 52,277 fires covering 8.82 million acres across all jurisdictions, 2.3 million of which are on national forests.
“To put this in perspective, that’s nearly seven times the state of Delaware, 12 times the state of Rhode Island.
“The cost of these fires is real.
“Lives are lost. And family history and livelihoods are destroyed in an instant.
“The communities and ecosystems will be rebuilding for years.
“We must ask ourselves- what kind of future are we leaving for the next generation when we have failed to conserve federal forests that overwhelm the sky with thick smoke and ash when they burn?
“As a physician, I see many parallels between human health and forest health.
“These catastrophic fires are a symptom, not the underlying problem.
“I believe we have to take a holistic approach.
“On the one hand. we must take preventative action so that when fires occur, they don’t burn so hot, so long, and so fast, that they destroy everything in their path.
“Additionally, we must also enable restoration to ensure that when fire does occur, agencies have the tools to restore and improve wildlife habitat, access for recreation, and whole forest ecosystems.
“Both of these things must also be paired with a comprehensive budget fix.”
The legislative language of the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017 was released this week by U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), with Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John Thune (R-SD), and Steve Daines (R-MT).
The draft legislation will enhance forest management to more effectively mitigate the severity of catastrophic wildfires. The bill will also provide increased protections for wildlife habitat threatened by wildfires.