U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson - Appropriations Committee Interior Chairman
U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson - 2nd District of Idaho

Simpson's I&E Report:
an Interior and Environment Appropriations Update from Chairman Simpson

Simpson’s Wildfire Funding Provision Included in House Continuing Resolution
                                 

Washington, D.C. - Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson has included critical wildfire suppression funding for the Forest Service and Department of Interior in the short-term continuing resolution.  The CR, which would extend government funding at sequestration levels through mid-December, provides $600 million to the Forest Service and $36 million to the Department of the Interior to restore wildfire suppression accounts that have been depleted during the devastating 2013 fire season.  Simpson chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees the budget for public lands agencies like the Forest Service and the BLM.

 

The funding in the CR helps to address what is referred to as “fire borrowing.”  When budgeted fire suppression funding is depleted, agencies are forced to take money from other non-fire accounts in order to continue fighting fires. 

 

“One of the biggest problems with fire borrowing is that it perpetuates the cycle of catastrophic wildfires in forests that are not being adequately managed,” said Simpson.  “Siphoning money away from resource management accounts during a bad fire year means that those forests will be more susceptible to devastating fires in the future—and when almost every year is a bad fire year, land managers’ hands are tied.  Restoring this funding will help ensure that fire fighters can continue to put out fires without jeopardizing the important work of hazardous fuels removal, resource restoration, and timber harvests that we need to do in order to return our forests to health.”

 

Simpson added, “I cannot say enough good things about the men and women who have been on the front lines of these fires.  They managed to save homes during the Beaver Creek fire that I would have thought couldn’t be saved.  All summer they have worked tirelessly to save Idaho lands and communities, and I’m pleased that Congress recognized this by including the resources to manage and put out fires in the CR.”

Time is Needed for Sage Grouse Efforts

By Congressman Mike Simpson

 

Washington, D.C. – “Shortly before Congress adjourned for the August District Work Period, the House Appropriations Committee began consideration of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2014.  As Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, I worked to ensure that western interests were protected in this bill, and I was disappointed that it was pulled from consideration before it could be passed out of Committee.  

 

“During my time in Congress, I have consistently worked to preserve responsible access to and use of public land.  This is why I included language in the Interior Appropriations bill to delay the decision on whether to list the sage-grouse as an endangered species for a year.

 

“The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) must determine whether to list the sage-grouse by the end of FY2015, a deadline included in two large court settlements that dealt with 251 species and more than a dozen lawsuits.  In advance of this decision, the BLM is currently under a court-imposed deadline to amend 68 resource management plans across the West to ensure that sage-grouse is protected under them.  This decision is of paramount importance to Idaho, so agencies need adequate time to complete this work.

 

“It’s important to note that this listing deadline was imposed by a judge, not based on science.  Unfortunately, since the court set this arbitrary deadline, agency budgets have continued to decline, and BLM is stretched thin in its efforts to amend these plans.  I continue to hear from many of the stakeholders involved who are concerned that the listing deadline has resulted in less collaboration and less effective conservation strategies.  By delaying the listing decision for one year, we can provide the BLM and state land managers with the time they need to do the job right.

 

“My bill includes these additional provisions regarding sage-grouse conservation efforts:

  • Requested funding to the BLM for sage-grouse conservation and related resource management amendments;
  • Directing the BLM to provide assistance to states for the implementation of state sage-grouse conservation plans and recognizing that states play a critical role in the success of this effort; and
  • Directing the FWS and the USGS to make public data used in the listing decision, information which has not been made available.                    

“The bill contains a number of other provisions important to the West, including:

  • Full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program (PILT), which reimburses local and state governments for the lack of tax base due to the presence of federal lands;
  • Language making permanent a long-standing provision to allow the BLM to extend expiring grazing permits while they complete the environmental work required for renewals;
  • Language extending the length of grazing permits from the current 10 years to 20 years, allowing agencies to focus on areas that are the most environmentally sensitive;
  • A provision making vacant grazing allotments available to grazing permittees adversely impacted by drought or wildfire;
  • Language preventing the Forest Service from implementing new wilderness directives that would greatly expand the areas to be considered for wilderness; and,
  • Language prohibiting the Forest Service and BLM from requesting or requiring that water rights be relinquished as a condition for initiating or renewing a permit.

 

“In Idaho, our way of life has long depended on access to public lands, whether for recreation, agriculture, or the responsible use of natural resources.  These provisions are important to our state’s culture and economy, and I hope that the House will act on this bill soon.”

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