Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says maybe now that GOP is in control, Congress will end ‘fire borrowing’

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who made her final official visit to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise on Tuesday, said it’s “very frustrating” that Congress still hasn’t found a way to stabilize wildfire prevention programs despite years of pressure and bipartisan agreement. “I will remain optimistic that when we have full control by one party, that there’s no one to blame but themselves for not moving forward on this issue,” Jewell told reporters. She noted that it’s an issue “that has been bipartisan, but very much impacts people in the West – and the Republican Party is well-represented in the West, so perhaps we’ll see some movement.” Idaho GOP Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden have been among the leading voices to change the funding system from a system that robs wildfire prevention budgets to pay to battle fires in the worst fire years. They want the largest and costliest wildfires paid for like other natural disasters are funded. This year, the Senate included the change in its budget bill for the Department of Interior, Jewell said, “saying that we’re going to take the most devastating wildfires and fund them as the disasters that they are.” But the House version didn’t include the change. And then in the end, no budget passed...more

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