Friday, July 10, 2015

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Simpson Supports Healthy Forest Bill
Idaho Congressman pledges to push catastrophic wildfire solution

Washington - Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson voted Thursday for legislation to promote healthier forests and more effective forest management.  H.R. 2647, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, addresses the land management crisis created by catastrophic wildfires, promotes collaborative management projects, and modernizes the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.  Simpson is a cosponsor of the legislation, which passed the House by a vote of 262-167.

 “The Forest Service faces a number of very real challenges when it comes to active land management, and I’m pleased with a number of steps that this bill takes to respond to those issues,” said Simpson.  “Frivolous lawsuits paralyze federal land management agencies and put management decisions into the hands of the court rather than land managers. This legislation addresses several issues at the heart of this problem.”

“Another major problem,” added Simpson, “is the cost of catastrophic wildfires. Addressing this issue is one of my top legislative priorities, and while this bill takes steps toward that goal, I’m going to continue working on my comprehensive solution to funding catastrophic wildfires.”

Simpson has introduced H.R. 167, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which is bipartisan legislation with broad support intended to fix the budgeting process for wildfire suppression.  His bill would treat catastrophic wildfires like similar natural disasters and would end the disastrous process known as “fire borrowing.”  

When fire suppression costs exceed the budget, the Forest Service is forced to rob from other non-fire accounts—including projects intended to reduce hazardous fuels and make forests less susceptible to fire—in order to keep fighting the fires. “Fire borrowing” was intended as an extraordinary measure, but as wildfires have grown more costly, it has become standard procedure—in fact, fire borrowing has been necessary in 7 of the past 10 years.  H.R. 2647 includes language that would allow FEMA to transfer limited funds to the Forest Service and the BLM for fire suppression when the budget has been exhausted.

“Until we address the problem of fire borrowing, funds intended for forest management, including hazardous fuels removal, timber harvest, and trail maintenance, will continue to pay to fire suppression,” said Simpson. “While I believe that Congress should take up the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act in order to fix a number of wildfire budgeting problems, I’m glad that this bill acknowledges these issues and begins to address them.” 

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