USA –– Citizen Challenges of Minimal Impedance, Climate Change Influence Growing
WASHINGTON Looking for a convenient scapegoat for the recent wildfires in the Western United States, House Republicans have predictably turned to endangered species as the cause of the destruction. A new report released today by the Democratic staff of the Natural Resources Committee, at the direction of Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-Mass.), torches the myth that citizen challenges to forest-thinning and other fire fuel reduction measures are hampering efforts to prevent wildfires.
The report, titled “Dousing the Claims: Extinguishing Republican Myths about Wildfire” is available HERE.
The major findings of the report, which analyzes data from the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, include:
— 8,000 federal forest fire fuel reduction projects over the last three years have reduced hazardous fire materials on more than 10 million acres of federal land.
–Of those projects subject to citizen challenges, less than 1 percent of all of the work was impacted by appeals.
–The role of endangered species concerns in project implementation is even more negligible. From 2009 to 2011, ESA challenges impacted less than 0.05 percent of all hazardous fuels work on over ten million acres of land.
“This report shows that political fact-checkers should create a new category called ‘pants on wildfire’ for the ill-informed Republican myths on forest fire prevention,” said Rep. Markey. “When climate change is baking the country in drought and actually increasing the risks of catastrophic wildfires, these half-baked ideas from Republicans do a disservice to the people who have suffered from wildfires.”
The report lays out a three point plan to actually reduce the risk and impacts of wildfires:
–Stop the reduction in funding for projects that reduce hazardous fire fuel. Current funding for these projects is at its lowest level since 2001, even as drought grips the West.
–Pass a bill authored by Rep. Markey (H.R. 5960) that would speed forest management projects in areas where federal, state and private land meet; and would incentivize thinning projects by allowing companies to trade timber gained through forest management projects.
–Recognize the effect that climate change is having on wildfire risk. The United States is currently experiencing its worst drought conditions since the Dust Bowl era. Climate change is expected to exacerbate these conditions over the coming decades, and contribute to other factors, like beetle infestations moving to higher altitudes on forested mountains as temperatures increase.