US Senator, Maria Cantwell says the Trump administration’s proposed budget threatens forest health. She directed her criticism at US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell yesterday during a Senate Committee hearing.
“Obviously the health and vitality of America’s National Forests are particularly interesting to people of our state after we suffered two of the worst fires a few years ago,” Cantwell said during the hearing. “I do not see how the President’s budget would even begin to enable the Forest Service to fulfill its motto of caring for the land and serving the people.”
Cantwell said the budget would not improve the health of the land, or enable the Forest Service to provide the “greatest benefit” to citizens.
“I can’t imagine a universe where anyone thinks that “status quo” at the Forest Service is acceptable– particularly with regard to the wildfires that we’ve been facing,” Cantwell said.
She went on to address the current administration’s approach to environmental issues, citing an article by the National Academy of Science: “The Trump Administration’s approach simply falls short in the new era of intense wildfires that we are now facing. Treating our forests can reduce the amount of carbon released into our atmosphere and scientists are also telling us that increased carbon levels causing climate change and extreme weather are major drivers of the fires we are experiencing today. So as you know, we are caught in this very vicious cycle.”
The President’s budget proposal is alarming, Cantwell says, because it uses “money that would pay for things that we could do up front like thinning and controlled burns and instead are trying to use that dollar to extract fossil fuels from our public lands.”
After listening sessions throughout the state in areas like Wenatchee, Spokane, Colville and Naches, Cantwell said she has heard a single message:
“The science says that we should be focusing our nation’s attention on funding and getting ahead of the fire problem.”
Last week Tidwell testified that the proposed $5.2 billion spending plan would support up to 370,000 jobs and contribute $30 billion to the gross domestic product. He said the Forest Service will harvest $3.2 billion board feet of timber on 1.7 million acres through thinning and hazardous fuel reduction.