House Considers Wildfire and Drought Package as West Burns
August 3, 2022
In response to the West’s unprecedented drought and the vast increase in wildfire severity and occurrence, Congress has begun discussion on the Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act. While both parties agree on the general idea of the legislation, disagreement has abounded on funding and new regulations.
Both parties have come to a consensus that federal firefighter pay needs to be raised and increased funding is needed for forest thinning projects. However, Democrats propose stricter regulations limiting forest thinning and increasing environmental reviews prior to the approval of forestry projects, while epublicans propose more ambitious thinning with less environmental review. Additionally, while both parties support raising federal firefighter wages, Republicans are concerned that raising salaries too much could lead to layoffs if funding runs short.
Democrats and Republicans also largely disagree on the parts of legislation addressing the drought and water issues in the west. While Democrats want to prioritize refilling large reservoirs like Lake Mead and Lake Powel, Republicans want more funding to go towards water saving infrastructure and recycling. Democrats also propose a database that would be used to track stream flow, snowpack, evaporation, ground water, and soil moisture across agencies. Republicans, however, are concerned that this data could be used to restrict farmers and ranchers water use, subjecting everyday management decisions to unnecessary governmental regulation and oversight.