‘Only you can prevent wildfires’

Special to the S-E

“Only you can prevent forest fires” has had an update. After decades of fire suppression, resulting in unnatural buildups of kindling-quality forest debris, it has been recognized that burning forests are natural under natural conditions.

Now the aim is to put out more threatening wildfires, fires created by a deficiency of funding for forest resiliency efforts. And D.C. lawmakers are digging in.

The U.S. Senate has just released a draft plan intended to address funding for firefighting: the “Wildfire Budgeting, Response and Forest Management Act.”

50 percent

In the recent past, the U.S. Forest Service has been forced to reshuffle agency priorities, since 50 percent of their budget has been diverted to fighting fires.

A letter to the Los Angeles Times, written by CAL FIRE Director Ken Pimlott and U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, succinctly outlined the problem: “Robbing fire prevention accounts to fight fires makes no sense and needs to end as soon as possible. A straightforward, narrow fix to the federal wildfire budgeting process is uncontroversial and is needed urgently.”

Neither writer is likely to see the “straightforward” fix in what the Senate has come up with so far. “Uncontroversial” is also lacking.

Bill sponsors are Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski-R and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell-D.

Read the full article in the July 20, 2016 issue of the Statesman-Examiner.