Press Releases

U.S. House of Representatives Passes Funding Plan for Strong Wildfire Suppression and Prevention, Earthquake Preparedness and Critical Services for Rural Counties

Interior Appropriations bill co-authored by Jaime Herrera Beutler includes several Southwest Washington priorities

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Washington, D.C., July 15, 2016 | comments
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed 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 of Representatives passed 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 2016 levels, and saves $1 billion from the President’s budget request to fund the Forest Service and other Department of Interior agencies.

“The abundance of forests and wildlife in Southwest Washington brings unique benefits and challenges to our region, and particularly our rural communities.  Our federal government needs to be responsive and strategic when supporting these communities,” said Jaime. “I’m proud of this bill that provides funding to fight wildfires, tools for responsible forest management and strategic protection for our fish populations. This bill also ensures taxpayer money is used responsibly by identifying millions of dollars in savings from other proposals.”  

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 deplete its budget for forest management and other 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 the fuel load and creating healthier forest – not to mention healthier species habitat.

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 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 $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.  This backlog puts hatcheries at risk of being shut down, which would directly impact recreational fisheries. 

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