Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson applauded inclusion of a fire borrowing fix and forestry reforms in the Omnibus Appropriations bill. Simpson has long championed a fix to fire borrowing having authored the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act which would treat wildfires like other natural disasters. The Omnibus includes the core principles of this bill by addressing the rising cost of fire suppression and a budget mechanism to provide parity with other natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes.
“The FY18 Omnibus spending bill might be one of the most critical pieces of legislation for western members I have seen since coming to Congress,” said Congressman Simpson. “I am thrilled this Omnibus provides a solution to fire borrowing. It has been my top legislative priority for years and by including this in the Omnibus, the Forest Service will be able to complete their maintenance and prevention work without fear of losing those dollars to suppression. It is long past due that wildfires in the west receive equal treatment with other natural disasters and this bill delivers the necessary budget changes to stop the dangerous practice of fire borrowing that has led to catastrophic wildfires in Idaho and throughout the west. I would like to thank Chairman Calvert and his counterparts on Interior Appropriations for prioritizing these important provisions. I would also like to thank Congressman Schrader and Senators Crapo and Wyden who have been champions of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act since I began this effort in 2013.”
The legislation also includes several important forest management reforms that will allow the Forest Service and Department of the Interior to accomplish more prevention and management, which also helps reduce wildfires. Specifically, the Omnibus includes a fix to the disastrous court ruling known as the Cottonwood decision that has resulted in vegetative management projects and millions of board feet being put on hold. Congressman Simpson introduced the Litigation Relief for Forest Management Act last year, which is bipartisan legislation that would resolve the Cottonwood case. Similar language was included in the Omnibus spending bill.
“The forest management reforms in this bill will give land managers the tools they need to get the job done,” added Simpson. “The Cottonwood decision is a concern I heard from the local Forest Service on the ground, all the way up the Secretary of Agriculture as a barrier that stands in the way of improving the health of our federal forests. This is a serious problem that needed to be addressed, and this bill solves that issue as well.”
The Omnibus also addresses support for rural counties by fully funding Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and reauthorizing Secure Rural Schools (SRS). This vital funding supports county budgets for the most critical of needs such as roads and schools.