Letters From the West

Wyden, Crapo and Risch call for fire reforms

Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, left, listens as Republican Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo speaks with Republican Sen. Jim Risch, right.

Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, left, listens as Republican Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo speaks with Republican Sen. Jim Risch, right.

The Agriculture Department has already informed Congress that it has run through it budget for fighting fires and is once again forced to transfer money from other accounts including fie prevention.

That had one third of the U.S. Senate standing together calling for reform at the National Interagency Fire Center Tuesday.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee and Idaho Republicans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch said they will make ensuring that fuel reduction projects move forward a priority in Congress this fall.

“The fires that are ripping their way through Oregon, Idaho California and much of the West are proof that the federal government’s policies for fire prevention are broken,” Wyden said.

The three said supporting collaborative projects where the timber industry and environmentalists come together supporting a series of projects that both thin and log forests and burn them under controlled conditions was the best route forward.

Crapo pointed to his Clearwater Collaborative project in north-central Idaho while Wyden touted his Malheur Agreement in eastern Oregon. Both have environmentalists and timber companies working together to make forests healthier after “years of neglect.”

Among the proposals is to reauthorize the stewardship contracting program the Forest Service uses to sell timber for projects these groups and its staff say improves the forest.

The three also expressed support for putting the Forest Service first in line for seven tanker planes that are expected to become available from the military this month. Wyden also urged the Forest Service to use drones for firefighting.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West