The Washington Examiner | May 8, 2019
By Josh Siegel
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., introduced legislation Wednesday to expand the pace and scale of forest management projects meant to reduce the risk of wildfires that have become more destructive and common.
The bill represents a continued push by Republicans backed by the Trump administration who argue poor forest management is contributing to the severity of wildfires in California and other parts of the western United States.
While many Democrats acknowledge the importance of forest management, they say climate change is the biggest culprit and argue Republicans are playing politics with the issue by not appreciating the role of hotter and drier weather caused by climate change for making fire seasons longer and fires more destructive.
“Climate change is not politics — it’s fact and it is dramatically increasing the wildfire threat,” said Robert Bonnie, the Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources and environment in the Obama administration, who oversaw the Forest Service. “To solve this challenge, we need to dramatically increase forest restoration in a way that accounts for the impacts of climate change.”
“The primary barrier to increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration on federal lands is not bureaucratic inertia or red tape,” Bonnie said. “The primary challenge is the lack of staff and funding to implement those projects. Until Congress is willing to put its money where its mouth is, we will not get ahead of the problem of catastrophic fires on the National Forests.”