Republicans Use Wildfires to Cover Environmental Sneak Attack
As runaway climate change really starts to kick-in, the number and severity of wildfires is increasing and so are the costs to fight those fires.
In the United States, the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior must pay the cost of fighting wildfires on federal lands from their own budgets and those budgets are no longer enough, especially when some Republicans want to slash the already low budgets.
Instead of addressing the cause of wildfires or increasing the budget of the Forest Service, a committee led by Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming and Orin Hatch of Utah, proposed the sneaky Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017 last month, not to prevent or mitigate wildfires but to:
To discourage litigation against the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management relating to land management projects, to require the Secretary of the Interior to develop a categorical exclusion for covered vegetative management activities carried
out to establish or improve habitat for greater sagegrouse and mule deer, to address the forest health crisis on National Forest System land, to expedite and prioritize forest management activities to achieve ecosystem restoration objectives, and for other purposes.
It is true that forest management practices need to be greatly improved and updated to address the challenges of climate change. They also need to balance the needs of various species and protect those which need protection. But this bill does not actually do that. It is really about further eroding environmental protections and preventing legal action to force the federal government to obey its own rules and laws intended to safeguard public lands. The word "climate" is not even mentioned in the bill.
State Foresters have been testifying in hearings on the bill and hopefully they and independent experts can help shape the bill so that it actually does more good then harm.