MISSOULA, Mont. — Increasing costs of firefighting are depleting the U.S. Forest Service’s budget. A bill by Senator Steve Daines aims to reduce the risk of wildfires before they begin.
“This is about some common sense reforms that protect us against catastrophic wildfires,” said Daines.
The Cinnabar fire has been burning in western Montana for 16 days, and it’s still zero percent contained.
That’s why Senator Daines toured the Fire Incident Command Post in Missoula. He received a briefing on the fire and discussed his legislation aimed at what he calls “common sense” forest management reform.
“Ninety-five percent of human caused fires occur within a half mile of a road, so if we focused our efforts on fuel reductions on these corridors surrounding our roads, combined with transmissin lines, that seems like a pretty common sense place to start,” said Daines.
Lolo National Forest, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and Missoula County report a combined 175 fires this year.
2020 has seen a 114% increase in fires since 2017. Nearly 65 percent of those have been human caused, and COVID-19 hasn’t helped.
“In the time of COVID-19, more people in the woods,” said Carolyn Upton, Lolo Forest Supervisor. “That is showing in the numbers.”
Destructive wildfire seasons in both Montana and California prompted Daines and California democratic Senator Diane Feinstein to work on the bipartisan bill.
“The bottom line is this- either we are going to better manage our forests or our forests are going to manage us,” said Daines.
The bill includes increased logging and removing biomass from national forests.
You can view the full bill here.