In what will likely be certainly one of her final appearances in a Congressional listening to earlier than she retires on the finish of August, U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen known as repeatedly for a “paradigm shift” for treating hazardous fuels.
At present she testified earlier than the Senate Committee on Vitality and Pure Sources to defend the President’s price range request for the U.S. Forest Service for Fiscal 12 months 2022 which begins October 1.
Along with rising the quantity of timber harvested on Forest Service lands, the subject of decreasing the variety of devastating wildfires got here up many instances within the hour and a half listening to. A video is offered on the Committee’s website.
Senator John Barrasso (WY) talked about (at 27:49 within the video) that in an April listening to the chief stated a paradigm shift was wanted to cut back the hazard fuels in forests. He requested, “Do we have to dramatically improve the variety of [wildfire mitigation] acres handled yearly?” Chief Christiansen stated,”Sure… We will’t simply do the identical previous factor we’ve all the time performed, simply deal with no matter acres we will get to… We’ve got a disaster. We’ve got a disaster that must be addressed otherwise.”
The Chief stated the company treats about three million acres every year, however they should deal with two to 4 instances that quantity.
Senator Ron Wyden (OR) obtained the Chief to verify that the company’s newest estimate is that it could take $20 billion over a 10-year interval to “get in entrance of the hazardous gasoline problem” (at 39:25).
The Nationwide Wildfire Coordinating Group created a wildland hearth glossary of phrases, which incorporates their definition of “hazard fuels”:
A gasoline complicated outlined by type, association, quantity, situation, and placement that presents a menace of ignition and resistance to manage.
Senator Wyden addressed the opportunity of a hearth season this yr that might be worse than common (at 36:40). He requested, “What’s the plan for conserving individuals secure when there are fires in a number of communities within the West?”
Chief Christiansen stated, partly, that in recent times there was competitors for firefighting sources when the variety of fires have resulted in requests for firefighters and tools that had been unable to be crammed, and later stated, “Our system is at a breaking level.”
Senator Wyden requested the Chief to submit a “written assertion on what the plans are if we’re brief on sources within the West.”
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) requested if the President’s proposed price range consists of ample funding for battling wildfires, post-fire restoration, prevention, decreasing hazard fuels, and addressing invasive species.
“Senator, it’s a step in the best course. A big step in the best course… It helps in modernizing our wildland hearth workforce. It doesn’t get us each step that we have to be.
“I’m very involved about our workforce,” she continued. “They’re drained, and fatigued. Their psychological well-being and stress that we’re involved about. Many of those people are short-term staff and so they attempt to make a yr’s dwelling in six to 9 months. There are nonetheless extra issues to handle, however this price range is an excellent first step.
Senator Masto requested in regards to the recruitment and retention challenges that the company is going through (1:05:30).
“It’s a calling to do that work,” the Chief stated. “However anyone ought to have the ability to have a dwelling wage to do that work. We do have considerations a few aggressive wage… We’re dedicated to work with the Division of the Inside and others to do a complete take a look at our workforce wants.”
“Please share that,” stated Senator Masto. “It’s the identical factor I’m listening to in my state from our hearth chiefs. It’s a problem. And that is one thing we’ve got to handle.”
Senator Angus King (Maine) stated timber gross sales on public lands fell from 13 billion board toes in 1988 to three.2 billion final yr, an element of 5, he stated. (1:13:07) “What within the hell occurred,” he requested. Later he stated, “Coincidentally from 1991 to 2020 the variety of acres burned has gone up by an element of 5. Is there a connection?”
“Sure sir, there may be,” the Chief rapidly replied. The Senator moved on to a different subject and didn’t permit her to totally clarify why she thought there’s a connection.