LaMalfa demands meaningful solutions to wildfires, drought in the West

Today, Congressman Doug LaMalfa voted against the Democrats’ “Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act.” Instead of green-lighting proven wildfire prevention activities such as landscape scale thinning and responsible harvesting, this bill creates more red tape and duplicative processes that will bog down existing Forest Service work. This bill claims to increase wildland firefighter pay, when in fact all crewmembers already earn above the proposed minimum pay, and it excludes nearly 40 percent of the federal wildland firefighting workforce from the “new benefits” promised in the legislation. This bill fails to address the root causes of catastrophic wildfires or implement aggressive landscape management practices, instead forces the Forest Service spend years creating a new 10-year strategy to confront wildfires – only six months after the agency completed its planning to implement a new 10-year strategy.

LaMalfa previously submitted 10 amendments to the bill that would increase funding for water storage programs, streamline regulations to build reservoirs faster, and authorize the expansion of improved forecasting to increase water supply and flood protection throughout the West. His amendments were rejected by the majority in lieu of more overreaching federal reforms.

“This bill only pretends to be about wildfire and drought relief,” LaMalfa said. “We know what works and what doesn’t to keep our forested areas safe from fire. This bill actively stops the Forest Service from doing the work that needs to be done, while spending billions on research that’s already been completed. Last year, a landscape wide thinning project saved South Lake Tahoe from the massive Caldor fire. Why doesn’t Shingletown, Burney, Happy Camp, Redding or any other Northern California town deserve the same protection that actually works?

“This bill is another wasted opportunity that could have helped, but instead falsely claims to increase pay for firefighters and doesn’t help our vulnerable towns. I’ll work with anyone to reduce fire risks and offered the author many options to meet in the middle. Instead, this bill will lock the public out of access to their public lands so we can watch it burn. There are too many lives at stake for government to keep getting this so wrong.”

Lowlights of this bill include:

  • Creation of a federal water monitoring program that will likely be weaponized against farmers and ranchers to further limit their water usage to grow crops.
  • Authorizes a new $1 billion a year “Climate Justice Grant Program” that would duplicate existing federal programs, and over $4 billion more in additional federal funding for unnecessary research, instead of allocating funds to enhance water storage capacity in the West.
  • Zero mentions or authorizations of mechanical thinning in the over 500 pages of text, despite the scientific evidence that thinning is one of the most effective tools available to treat overgrown and fire-prone lands.
  • Despite studies showing the largest national forest fires occur in roadless areas, this bill will lock up nearly 60 million acres as roadless areas preventing access for firefighting, thinning or recreation. This will ultimately make wildfires in these areas more likely and severe due to delayed response time.
  • Fails to address the weaponization of bureaucratic environmental statues that prevent forest health treatments at the pace and scale needed to fully address this issue.