On Thursday, Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson discussed important Idaho issues with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell during a hearing held by theHouse Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. The topics ranged from ongoing litigation that prevents the Forest Service from managing public lands, to treating wildfire funding like other natural disasters.
“How do you maintain the public’s right to have a say in how their public lands are managed and get on with managing instead of spending all the resources we use in lawsuits?” said Simpson. “We have created situations where you can get sued at multiple steps in the process and it is just unmanageable.”
Congressman Simpson has long expressed concerns with frivolous litigation and recently introduced bipartisan legislation to reverse a court ruling that risks 80 vegetative management projects and hundreds of millions of board feet according to the Forest Service. Secretary Perdue echoed his concerns about the court decision known as Cottonwood.
Simpson also raised the issue of ending the disastrous practice of fire borrowing and treating wildfires like other natural disasters.
“Fire borrowing has gotten out of hand,” said Simpson. “When 53 percent of your budget is going to fight wildfires that means there is no money left for anything else… We have appropriated money for (trail maintenance), but guess what? It has gone to fight wildfires...We need your help (Secretary Perdue) to make leadership understand the importance of this issue.”
Congressman Simpson has long championed the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which would fix the way wildfires are currently budgeted for by treating catastrophic wildfires like other natural disasters. The legislation received 150 cosponsors last Congress.