Press Releases

Jaime Herrera Beutler and U.S. House Appropriations Committee Advance Bill for Healthy Forests, Healthy Waters, and Healthy Rural Communities

Interior Appropriations bill funds forest management and wildfire prevention, invasive species protection, Payments in Lieu of Taxes

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Washington, July 16, 2014 | comments
Jaime and a majority of the U.S. House Appropriations committee yesterday approved critical funding for fighting wildfires, as well as other Southwest Washington priorities.
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Jaime and a majority of the U.S. House Appropriations committee yesterday approved critical funding for fighting wildfires, as well as other Southwest Washington priorities.

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved a bill to fund the Department of Interior, Forest Service, EPA, and other related agencies in the upcoming year that was $409 million below the President’s request. In addition to wildfire fighting funding, the responsible spending bill calls for more active management on our national forests, and also includes funding to protect Northwest waters from aquatic invasive species that threaten both ecosystems and local economies.  

Southwest Washington priorities included in this bill:

Wild Fire prevention: Wildfires have been increasing in severity over the past several years, damaging forests, threatening safety, and forcing the Forest Service to tap into its budget for other services and priorities. The bill includes $291 million for wildfire suppression and $160 million for hazardous fuel management.  The bill also calls for active forest management to prevent wildfires by reducing the fuel load and creating healthier forest.  This would also create healthier species habitat.

Forest Road Maintenance and Construction: The bill would direct the U.S. Forest Service to maintain forest roads in a way that preserves recreational opportunity and reduces costs.  Currently, the Forest Service cannot adequately maintain 4,078 miles of road and 115 road bridges in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  Many of these roads pose safety, environmental and public health threats that must be addressed.  This bill would direct the USFS to close and stabilize the roads as opposed to permanently decommissioning them.  Along with the recreational opportunities and taxpayer savings created by this provision, access for firefighting and future forest management would still be available.

Aquatic Invasive Species: The nonnative quagga and zebra mussels have severely damaged freshwater eco systems in the Northeast and Southwest United States. This bill provides $2 million for containment, prevention, and enforcement to prevent the spread of these invasive species to uncontaminated bodies of water throughout Washington state.

Payment in Lieu of Taxes Fund (PILT): The bill includes $422 million for payments to counties with large portions of land owned by the federal government. These funds help offset the loss of property tax income that pays for education, emergency services, county road maintenance, and other critical services in rural communities. 

 

“The increase in wildfires in past years has consumed the Forest Service’s budget and crippled its ability to properly manage our forests,” said Jaime.  “This bill acknowledges that, given the current state of our national forests, more funding is needed to fight wildfires– but we also call for more active management to bring about a future of healthier forests less susceptible to fires. 

“As our fish populations continue to recover, the need to protect our waters from invasive species has never been greater,” continued Jaime. “Given the havoc they’ve wreaked on other ecosystems and economies throughout the country, I’m pleased to offer this bill that will help prevent the spread of quagga and zebra mussels to our region’s waters, protecting local species and local jobs.” 

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