This week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (Committee) held a hearing to “Examine the Outlook for Wildland Fire and Management Programs for 2019.” Led by Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Committee held a lengthy discussion on the upcoming wildfire season. The Committee heard testimony from a panel of expert witnesses that featured Mrs. Shawna Legarza (Director, Fire Aviation and Management, U.S. Forest Services), Mr. Jeff Rupert (Director, Office of Wildland Fire, U.S. Department of the Interior), Secretary Wade Crowfoot (California Natural Resources Agency), and Mr. Chris Maisch (Alaska State Forester, National Association of State Foresters).
The panel shared the impact of the policy tools made available to ramp-up wildfire mitigation and suppression techniques, and discussed potential new resources for fire prevention. During his opening testimony, Secretary Crowfoot urged Congress to double the amount of funding for the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior for federal forest land management. In addition, Secretary Crowfoot asked federal partners to increase vegetation management projects and prescribed burn programs to meet the U.S. Forest Service’s commitment to treat 500,000 acres per year of its lands in California. Lastly, the Secretary asked Congress to make federal funding available to cover permissible costs for devastating wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that were declared as federal disasters.