Forest Management and Wildfiresby Representative Glenn Thompson
Posted on 2015-12-09
THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the House
Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry, I am pleased to open this
Special Order to discuss forest management and wildfires.
Over the course of this year, many Western States, including Alaska, have gone through a catastrophic wildfire season, with more than 9 million acres burned to date. This is a continuation of an unsustainable trend where the average number of acres burned each year has doubled since the 1990s. To address this, government spending on wildfire suppression has also doubled; yet the total amount of spending on forestry activities has remained the same.
Because the cost of wildfire suppression efforts has continued to climb over the past 15 years, the U.S. Forest Service has repeatedly had to transfer money from its nonfire programs to firefighting efforts. In fact, this year alone, more than 50 percent of the Forest Service budget went toward wildfire suppression, taking funding away from programs and activities that promote forest health and reduction of underbrush, wood waste, and dead trees, which help these wildfires spread.
Fire transfers also undermine timber harvesting, which is critical for the health of the forests as well as our rural communities and counties.
In contrast to this 50 percent, only 20 years ago, the Forest Service was only spending as little as 13 percent, or one-sixth, of its budget on fire-related activities. However, this is not simply a question of allocating more money for fire suppression. The real solution to this problem is how we maintain our forests.
I am pleased to be joined tonight by bipartisan members of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee of the Agriculture Committee.
I am pleased to yield to the ranking member of that committee, Michelle Lujan Grisham.