By Whitney Forman-Cook
On Monday, December 11, 2017, the National Association of State Foresters joined a select group of forestry and wildfire policy stakeholders at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., to discuss ways we can work together to prevent severe and catastrophic wildfires. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue hosted the summit, and USDA Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke, as well as U.S. Representatives Rob Bishop of Utah and Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, were active participants.
The morning round table was the first held on wildfire by this administration in which both the Interior and USDA secretaries were in attendance. “It was a welcome opportunity for a broad range of forestry interests to strategize ways to improve suppression activities and fuels reduction work,” said NASF Policy Director Gary Schiff about the meeting. “We applaud Secretary Perdue and Secretary Zinke for hosting the round table and being genuinely interested in our thoughts and recommendations. Open dialogue is essential to finding and implementing solutions.”
NASF thanked the administration for its support of active forest management and highlighted the work of the nation’s state foresters, who have been working tirelessly to target fuels reduction via state Forest Action Plans and improve wildfire suppression outcomes and safety through the use of new technology like drones, real time mapping, and personal tracking.
Schiff told those in the room on Monday that “This country absolutely needs to fix the funding system for wildfire suppression. If we don’t do it now, there will soon be no funding left to invest in forest management and resiliency on public or private lands.”
NASF continues to support legislation that addresses wildfire funding, such as the bill introduced by Rep. Westerman. “State foresters also want to see federal forest reforms that allow for significantly more active management of national and neighboring forests,” Schiff continued. “We understand some bills have broader support than others among members of Congress, but we would encourage both the House and Senate to ‘not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.'”
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(Photo courtesy of Twitter @SecretarySonny)