Baucus: Montana Wildfires Deserve High Priority
Senator Visits Fire Crews, Tours States Largest Wildfire, Meets with Evacuees
Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012
Posted: Saturday, June 30, 2012
(Billings, Mont.) - Montana's senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus joined Senator Jon Tester to assess the wildfires gripping the state while learning firsthand from residents and fire crews. With devastating wildfires stretching resources in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, Baucus reiterated his efforts to ensure Montana fire crews have access to every appropriate federal resource to help address Montana's greatest needs.
"Montana is no stranger to wildfires, but from what I'm hearing and seeing on the ground - this fire season is a different beast. My hat goes off to all the fire crews working around the clock to save lives and property, and I'm doing all I can to secure the resources they need to get the job done," said Baucus, who visited the Ash Creek Fire in Eastern Montana today. "Montanans have shown time and time again our true grit in the face of disaster and I'm encouraged by all the ways neighbors are helping neighbors to get through this tough season."
"The fire crews are doing tremendous work," Tester said. "We need the weather to start breaking in our favor, but Montanans should know that our best firefighters and support personnel are on the job."
Baucus joined Senator Tester this morning at the Billings Dispatch Center for a briefing on the current wildfire situation in Montana to ensure no crews would be pulled from fires for the meeting. Later in the morning, they met with fire supervisors at the Colstrip Incident Command Center for the latest information on the Ash Creek Fire before visiting with residents, evacuees and volunteers at the Lame Deer Boys and Girls Club.
Fire managers report beetle-killed trees are partly to blame for the severity of the wildfires currently burning in Montana. Beetle-killed trees are more susceptible to falling during wildfires, making it more dangerous for fire crews. Baucus recently secured a victory for Montana forests with an amendment to the Farm Bill to better address Montana's bark beetle infestation. The Farm Bill currently authorizes the U.S. Forest Service to use $100 million to address the bark beetle infestation, which Baucus' amendment would double. It would also help the Forest Service address the bark beetle epidemic by authorizing streamlined procedures that promote efficient and responsible action on the ground. This combination makes it clear that both efficient authorities and adequate resources are crucial for this effort. The funding is authorized to the Forest Service to spend in states where the Governor requests it. The goal of the plan is to save money over the long haul through sustainable harvests versus incurring massive costs related to wild lands firefighting.
• Western states are experiencing the largest bark beetle outbreak in recorded history, having lost more than 41.7 million acres of trees.
• Montana's total loss of 6.2 million acres is the second-highest in the country, exceeded only by Colorado's 6.6 million acres.
• On average bark beetles kill as many trees annually as all wildfires across the U.S.
• This widespread forest mortality has many significant impacts, including to municipal water supplies, tourism economies, wildfire risk, and human health and safety.
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