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As NM Prepares For Wildfire Season, Udall, Heinrich & Colleagues Urge Trump Administration To Reverse Proposed Cuts To Prevention, Firefighting Budget

on March 28, 2019 - 4:11pm

U.S. SENATE News:

  • Senators: Send us amended budget request that “more appropriately matches the science-based restoration needs of our shared federal forests”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee joined seven Western Senate colleagues in urging the Trump administration to reverse proposed funding cuts to critical wildfire prevention and forest restoration projects throughout the country.

The administration’s recently released FY 2020 budget proposal cuts funding from nearly every U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of the Interior (DOI) account related to forestry.

“It is inexplicable that the Administration proposed to cut nearly every USDA and DOI account related to forestry in your FY 2020 budget,” the senators wrote to Acting Interior Secretary Bernhardt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “It is well-documented that – because of climate change, a century of well-intentioned, but misguided fire suppression strategies, and dramatically increased development in the wildland-urban interface – wildfires across the country continue to grow in size and cost year after year.”

The letter also highlights previous comments made by administration officials and statistics from the U.S. Forest Service about the importance of fire prevention efforts. According to the Forest Service, “80 million acres of National Forest lands and 70,000 communities are at risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfires” – yet the budget proposes fuel reduction or maintenance work on only 3.4 million acres.

“With enactment of the budget fix last March, Congress gave the agencies the ability to dramatically scale up investments to restore those 80 million acres. Remarkably, at the Administration’s first opportunity to make these urgently needed investments, you are telling Congress you plan to continue with business as usual,” the senators continued. “We urge you to reconsider your inadequate budget submission and send Congress an amended request that more appropriately matches the science-based restoration needs of our shared federal forests.”

Last Congress, Udall and Heinrich secured passage of language to fix the chronic failures in wildfire funding that have plagued fire-prone communities across the West. Specifically, the omnibus bill ended the Forest Service practice of fire borrowing by establishing a contingency account for use in bad fire years and funds it with over $2 billion a year through 2027. In addition, the legislation freed up

In addition to Udall and Heinrich, the letter to Acting Secretary Bernhardt and Secretary Perdue was also signed by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

The full text of the letter is available HERE.


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