Rep. Cook Announces Support for Improved Federal Wildfire Policy
WASHINGTON- Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) today announced his support for White House Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) request to Congress for improved wildfire funding and active forest management.
A long-time advocate for improvements in federal wildfire policy, Cook recently joined 31 other members of Congress who sent a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) asking for comprehensive forest management and wildland fire budgeting reforms as part of the next disaster relief request.
Specifically, the members wrote, “Mismanagement has left our forests vulnerable to insects and disease and ripe for catastrophic wildfires. The system is broken. We need forest management reforms, and we need them now.”
On Wednesday afternoon, OMB responded to the letter, announcing a request to Speaker Ryan for $567.5 million for improved firefighting efforts. Eight times in the last twelve years, the US Forest Service has taken funds from other operating accounts and transferred those funds to firefighting purposes. In doing so, they’ve depleted accounts for forest management practices that help prevent catastrophic wildfires.
The National Interagency Fire Center reports 49,563 fires have burned 8.4 million acres so far in 2017. According to the U.S. Forest Service (FS), another 80 million acres throughout the country are currently considered ‘high risk.’ The FS has expended more than $2.3 billion to fight fires in fiscal year 2017 alone, a new record. The House Committee on Natural Resources reports that in 2016, wildfires destroyed 4,312 structures, including 3,192 residences.
Catastrophic fires also cause significant damage to the environment. Data from NASA has concluded that one catastrophic wildfire can emit more carbon emissions in a few days than total vehicle emissions in an entire state over the course of a year.
Rep. Cook said, “Wildfire funding is crucial to dealing with the constant deadly threat of wildfires in districts like mine, and I’ve long been an advocate for reforms and improved funding. You can only watch so many California fires take lives, destroy homes, and create untold environmental damage before you demand changes in our wildfire policy and budgeting. This administration takes the threat seriously, and I commend them for it. This is long overdue.”
A member of the House Armed Services, Natural Resources, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.
Click here to view the letter Congressman Cook signed to OMB Director Mulvaney.