Wildfire among topics discussed in Senate hearing on natural hazards

By Zoe Bommarito

Today, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to discuss the roles of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and USDA Forest Service in preparing for, monitoring, and responding to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches, and landslides.

Hearing witness Glenn Casamassa, the associate deputy chief of the Forest Service's National Forest System, testified that his agency and USGS are developing new technologies for monitoring and assessing natural hazards; however, with budget cuts, these innovative programs could be cut. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., suggested that fixing the Forest Service’s “fire borrowing” problem could free up additional funding for these essential hazard monitoring programs.

Toward the close of the hearing, the panel discussion shifted to disaster preparation and response. Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., considered the need for comprehensive land mapping and hazard assessments for Californian communities recently affected by deadly landslides, which were caused by some of the worst wildfires in the state's history. Several of the panel's members said they were encouraged to see state entities like CAL FIRE work collaboratively – and so effectively – with federal and private partners to respond to these serious natural hazards.

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