Senate Ag Committee holds hearing on wildfires |

Senate Ag Committee holds hearing on wildfires

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing Thursday on the budgetary impacts of wildfires and their threat to natural resources.

“It is time Congress, the administration, and stakeholders advocate for solutions that not only address funding fixes, but more importantly advocate for solutions that improve the management of our national forests,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said in an opening statement.

“Tough decisions will have to be made on a bipartisan basis for policies that promote greater streamlining and agency efficiencies so the Forest Service can actually conduct this kind of work,” Roberts said.

“Wildfire knows no boundaries. Forest Service inefficiencies and bureaucratic red tape is a significant contributor prohibiting necessary and valuable restoration work. If nothing changes, everything goes up in smoke anyway.”

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., saying that transfers from other USDA accounts to firefighting must stop, noted that Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., had introduced bipartisan legislation – the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act – which would end the fire transfers by allowing the worst 1 to 2 percent of wildfires to be treated like natural disasters.

“I’m a cosponsor of the Wyden/Crapo legislation and applaud their bipartisan approach,” Stabenow said. “The Senate should pass this bill immediately.”

The hearing provided an opportunity for stakeholders to comment on the wildfire situation.

A spokesperson for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack noted that there were no federal government witnesses at the hearing, but provided links to testimony on the subject provided earlier by Agriculture Undersecretary for Natural Resources Robert Bonnie and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

USDA also provided a link to its August fire budget report.

–The Hagstrom Report