During a U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) continued to push to reform federal wildfire policy by funding major wildfires the same way as other natural disasters, while freeing up funding to prevent future fires.
The committee considered the Administration’s wildfire preparedness and forest service 2015 fiscal year budget proposal, which includes a plan based on a bill Senator Heinrich is cosponsoring, which would treat the largest fires – roughly 1 percent of annual fires – as natural disasters, and fund firefighting efforts from a disaster account similar to the one that funds hurricane and other natural disaster relief efforts. The U.S. Forest Service estimates 1 percent of fires consume 30 percent of firefighting budgets, and thus should be treated like other natural disasters.
During the hearing, Senator Heinrich recognized important catastrophic wildfire prevention programs in New Mexico, including hazardous fuel reduction, stewardship contracting, and watershed restoration. He questioned U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell on the need to protect these programs.