U.S. Lawmakers Discuss Wildfire Suppression Legislation - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

U.S. Lawmakers Discuss Wildfire Suppression Legislation

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GREAT FALLS -

The Obama administration has proposed a plan to increase funding for wildfire suppression, but some lawmakers in Washington D.C. believe it won't solve the problem by just adding money to fight fires.

Wednesday Republican lawmakers said no amount of increased funding will decrease the occurrence of wildfires, so they want to see a forest management component added to the legislation.

"The White House is addressing firefighting, we need to be addressing fire prevention and that is why we need to do like the house did to look at this reform and ultimately use good common sense to get healthier forests," U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said.

Sen. Daines and House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop said they, and other Republican lawmakers, want to address fire prevention by reforming policies that would improve forest management.

"If we do nothing, the forests will continue to become overgrown, susceptible to destructive, catastrophic wildfires, and it's as simple as we need to have management tools in addition to additional funds to help solve this in the future." Bishop said.

Right now, the U.S. National Forest Service is tied up with litigation costs, which has become their second highest expense.

“It drags out any of their ability to do any progressive, proactive management,” Bishop said. “That's where the relief has to come in."

Fire borrowing, which is when the Forest Service transfers funds to keep up with firefighting costs, is yet another crippling element to wildfire suppression.

In July, the U.S. House passed bi-partisan legislation called the Resilient Federal Forests Act. This bill takes care of fire borrowing and provides the forest service the tools they need to begin improving forest health.

Sen. Daines said the Resilient Federal Forest Act is sitting in the House Agriculture committee right now, and the next step he'd like to see is joining that reform with the need for forest management.

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