Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Senators push wildfire legislation in energy bill negotiations

Two western senators urged members of the conference committee negotiating a comprehensive energy package to move quickly because their states have been devastated by this year's wildfire season. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Steve Daines, D-Mont., sent a letter Tuesday to the top lawmakers on the energy bill conference committee to include changes to the way wildfires are fought by the federal government. Reforms to the U.S. Forest Service's management of wildfires are included in the legislation. Lawmakers want to end the Forest Service's practice of fire borrowing, or taking money from other parts of the agency's budget to fight wildfires. About half of the Forest Service's budget is now spent on fighting wildfires. Daines and Feinstein co-sponsored legislation to allow the federal government to declare wildfires natural disasters, which would open new streams of funding. According to the letter, more than 630,000 acres of California and 100,000 acres of Montana have been burned in wildfires this year. Millions more acres are considered in danger of burning. The senators also pushed for several other provisions in the legislation that would allow for more reform of the wildfire fighting process, including additional fire-risk mapping and moving forward with projects that would reduce hazardous fuels, such as fallen trees...more

No comments: