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Press Release: Sali Stresses Importance of Comprehensive Fire Management

April 17th, 2008 by Halli

From the office of Congressman Bill Sali

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Bill Sali, today sitting as Ranking Member at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing, made the case for a two-pronged approach to suppressing large wildfires as fire season nears.

The hearing discussed committee Chairman Nick Rahall’s (D-WV) bill, H.R. 5541, which dedicates funding for suppressing large wildfires.

“We cannot address funding for suppressing these large fires without addressing the cause as well – the increasing and unchecked fuel loads in our national forests that surround and threaten our homes and communities,” said Sali. “More must be done than simply adjusting funding like we are doing today. We are not addressing the real problem. We will continue to have larger and larger fires until we reduce fuel-loading.”

Witnesses at last week’s hearing on the topic concurred with Sali. Governor Jane Napolitano (D-AZ) highlighted the close relationship between pre-fire management and the costs of fire-fighting itself. In addition, U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) commented that larger fires have resulted from the increasing tree density and fuel loads.

“As we fast approach fire season, communities in Idaho do not want to relive last year’s events of nearly two million acres going up in smoke. Idahoans face needless risk of their homes being burned, watersheds destroyed and even lives lost unless we do what we can to protect them and pre-empt devastating fires,” noted Sali.

Sali offered his bill, Saving American Lives and Investing in Protecting Land and Nature Act, H.R. 4245, as an amendment. The amendment would speed up projects to reduce hazardous fuels and reduce risks from wildfire, insect damage and disease. Such projects help protect communities and private lands adjoining federal forest lands by reducing the risks on those lands. The bill would allow a shortened environmental review process – a categorical exclusion – as allowed under the National Environmental Policy Act. The bill would keep in place the environmental safeguards stipulated in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, would provide old growth and endangered species protections and comply with forest management plans and environmental laws.

Although Sali’s proposal was not included in the final version of H.R. 5541 that passed the Committee, Sali said he would continue to make the case for his proposal as wildfire funding legislation moves through the House. “You don’t win an argument you don’t make, and I intend to keep pressing for passage of my legislation,” said the Congressman.

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