Cantwell Questions Trump Administration On Forest Service Budget

Despite Forecasts for More Severe Fires - Administration Proposes Cutting Budget For Firefighting by Nearly $300 Million

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-WA) questioned Forest Service Chief Tidwell regarding the Trump Administration’s Forest Service Budget. 

In her opening statement Sen. Cantwell said, “The health and vitality of America’s National Forests are of particular interest to the people of my state. But unfortunately, I do not see how this budget would even begin to enable the Forest Service to fulfill its motto of “caring for the land and serving the people.”  

During the hearing Sen. Cantwell defended “collaboratives” that have benefited from special funding set-aside to encourage collaboration, better planning, and more public participation on restoration and fire prevention projects. “I also don’t understand zeroing out our collaboratives. These are things that have given us our best effort to date on working collaboratively. Now, we can talk, as I have on the Pine Pilot or where we can get collaboratives even more successfully implemented, but why zero out collaboratives?"

The Senator also highlighted that, “President Trump’s proposal reduces funding for fighting wildfires. This budget proposes a decrease of almost $300 million for fighting wildfires and another decrease of $50 million for preventing wildfires.”  These cuts come at a time when Forest Service scientists are saying that there’s a 50% chance that the Forest Service won’t have adequate firefighting funding already. 

In questioning Forest Service Chief Tidwell Sen. Cantwell asked, “The budget proposal also would reduce funding for Volunteer Fire Departments by 23 percent, now this is a very big concern to us, because if there is one thing I heard loud and clear from communities all across my state, is that Volunteer Fire Departments are playing a key role because of the number of fire starts that are there, and often times they are the first responders to these fires in helping us do whatever we can to help contain them as other people come on board. 

Isn’t this just going to make the whole fire suppression budget more expensive if we cut the funding here to these volunteer community organizations that are helping us?”

In a recent letter to President Trump sent in April, Sen. Cantwell voiced concern that the government’s approach to managing wildfires will not adequately address the new era of intense wildfires we face.  Sen. Cantwell explained that intentionally underfunding the Federal wildland fire program will almost certainly force agencies to restart the practice of transferring funding from non-fire accounts to pay for the cost of managing fires. 

The video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement can be found here. 

Witness testimony will be available online immediately before the start of each hearing at on committee website.