Tester Urges Senate to Act After Fires Burn Nearly 1.1 Million Acres in Montana
Senator Jon Tester spoke before the U.S. Senate’s Defense Programs & Policy Panel on Wednesday, September 13, highlighting the horrendous fire season in Montana with some of the most recent totals.
"We've seen over 1.1 million acres burned in Montana this summer, this is more than three times the 10-year average and nearly the size of the state of Delaware...In addition to burning nearly 2,000 square miles, these fires are burning a hole in our budget. As of this morning taxpayers have paid nearly...$350 million to fight the wildfires in Montana alone."
Tester said the total tab for firefighting across the West was now over $2 billion and warned the panel that if the Forest Service continues to pull money from forest maintenance projects to fight wildfires, it will only create a vicious cycle.
"The Forest Service must be fully reimbursed, every dime that was removed from maintenance, mitigation and restoration accounts to fight wildfires. We cannot leave the Forest Service with a hollowed out budget. It is critical that they have the resources they need to help communities recover from catastrophic wildfires, so that they can cut more trees and remove the dead and dying debris that fuel these fires."
Tester called for the Senate to act in three other ways, including funding wildfire fighting like other natural disasters, opening up the small business administration for businesses and farms impacted by the fire season and, finally, fast-tracking fire mitigation and recovery funding to the states that need it.