Tuesday, February 25, 2014

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DELEGATION:  SUPPORT GROWING FOR FIRE BILL
Administration will include proposal in 2015 budget

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of Idaho's Congressional Delegation are welcoming the Administration’s announcement that it plans to include a change in how fighting wildfires on public lands is funded in the upcoming 2015 budget outline.  Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Representatives Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador met with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last week about collaborative land management planning, including discussing their legislation that would place some firefighting funding under a disaster category. 

The legislation, originally introduced by Senator Crapo and Representative Simpson along with Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Representative Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon), aims to maintain public land restoration funding while shifting some firefighting money to disaster accounts, therefore protecting restoration actions such as logging, burning and habitat management.  The Administration said over the weekend that it would include the legislative proposal in next year’s budget, a move the Idaho Delegation says will expand the discussions beyond Western state Congressional members.

"The Administration’s support will be key in getting votes to pass this legislation to treat the most devastating of wildfires as the disasters that they are," Crapo said.  "We can protect both firefighting and restoration efforts and provide more certainty for land planners and job creators alike in improving our public lands once this legislation is made law."

“Not everyone understands the serious impacts that fires have in the western United States, especially my colleagues from the east,” said Risch. “The administration’s announcement signals a shift towards greater understanding that resources are needed to deal with fires, just as resources are needed to deal with hurricanes and other disasters.”

“I’m pleased to see the Administration has chosen the approach we took in our legislation,” Simpson said.  “Our bill treats catastrophic wildfires like similar major natural disasters—such as floods and hurricanes—and ensures that money intended for managing public lands, reducing fuel loads, and improving forest health is actually used for that purpose.  Changing the way we budget for fire will allow us to continue to fight fires without crippling our ability to prevent future fires from burning out of control.”

“Our delegation has been working hard to fix wildfire funding, and the administration’s response is a fresh sign of momentum for our bill,” said Labrador.  “The people of Idaho deserve better policies to fight catastrophic wildfires, and we will continue to work in a bipartisan way to get a solution signed into law.” 

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