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Jaime Herrera Beutler Helps Craft Spending Plan for Strong Wildfire Suppression and Prevention, Earthquake Preparedness and Basic Services for Rural Counties

Interior Appropriations bill approved by U.S. House committee, includes several Southwest Washington priorities championed by Jaime

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Washington, DC, June 16, 2016 | comments
Yesterday, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee advanced a bill co-authored by Jaime Herrera Beutler that funds strong wildfire suppression and prevention, more active management of national forests, federal payments used for emergency services in rural counties, expansion of the early earthquake detection system as well as other Southwest Washington priorities.
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Yesterday, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee advanced a bill co-authored by Jaime Herrera Beutler that funds strong wildfire suppression and prevention, more active management of national forests, federal payments used for emergency services in rural counties, expansion of the early earthquake detection system as well as other Southwest Washington priorities.

This Interior Appropriation bill for 2017 would spend $32.1 billion, which is $64 million below the 2016 level and saves $1 billion from the President’s budget request to fund the Forest Service and other Department of Interior agencies.

“The horrific wildfires of the last few years have wreaked havoc on our communities, forests and wildlife, and it’s not good enough to just fight them once they’ve started – we have to start managing our federal forests to make them more resilient to fires in the first place,” said Jaime.  “This spending plan puts us on the right course to better care for our forests and rural communities, and invests in important response tools we’ll need in the event of a significant earthquake.  I also made sure it takes seriously our commitment to healthy fish populations on the Columbia River that support recreation and jobs, and are part of our cultural identity.  Importantly, overall we identified tens of millions of dollars in savings to ensure each taxpayer dollar is going farther and doing more.”

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 U.S. Forest Service to tap into its budget for other services and priorities. The bill includes $3.9 billion for wildfire suppression and firefighting, also including $575 million for hazardous fuel management, which is $30 million above the fiscal year 2016 level.  The bill also calls for active forest management to prevent wildfires by reducing fuel load and creating healthier forests and habitats for a variety of wildlife species.

Forest Road Maintenance and Construction: The bill includes funding above the President’s request for maintenance and improvement of forest roads. There are 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 also includes $40 million for the Legacy Roads and Trails program that has allowed the Forest Service to make significant strides in repairing critical roads needed for access and fish habitat and replace undersized culverts.

Payment in Lieu of Taxes Fund (PILT): The bill includes $480 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. 

Early Earthquake detection: Given the increase in seismic activity seen on the Pacific Coast, this bill includes $10.2 million for the continued development and improvement of essential infrastructure for the early earthquake detection system.

Maintaining fishing policy on Columbia River: This bill continues mass marking, a tool that that will help continue the progress being made on the restoration of salmon runs by allowing wildlife managers and fishermen to distinguish the difference between wild fish and hatchery fish on the Columbia River. The bill also provides a $4.57 million increase for consultation efforts led by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to address the current administrative backlog inhibiting hatcheries from being approved and recognized as Endangered Species Act compliant, thus putting them at risk of being shut down  directly impacting recreational fisheries.

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