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VIDEO: Heinrich Fights To Strengthen Wildfire Suppression Efforts; Fix Fire Budget

WASHIGNTON, D.C. (July 17, 2015) - During U.S. Senate Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining hearing, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) fought to strengthen wildfire suppression efforts including hazardous fuel reduction and watershed restoration. He also emphasized the need for community engagement in forest management decision-making.

In his opening statement, Senator Heinrich highlighted S. 1780, the Restoring America's Watersheds Act, a bill he introduced with U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to protect, restore, and improve the health of watersheds in national forests. The proposal would prioritize fire-impacted watersheds and encourage partnerships with non-federal stakeholders to invest in forests that provide important water resources. 

Senator Heinrich also continued his push for wildfire funding reform. He pointed out that fire suppression has grown from 16 percent of the U.S. Forest Service budget in 1995 to more than 40 percent in 2014.   

"Any solution to improve the health and resiliency of our forests has to include fixing the fire budget so that forest staff can spend time and resources making our forests healthier and more accessible to the public, instead of racing from one catastrophic fire to the next," said Senator Heinrich.

Senator Heinrich questioned U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell on hazardous fuel reduction and wildfire suppression efforts. The chief emphasized the need for funding to manage wildfires effectively.

Senator Heinrich also asked the Pew Charitable Trusts Director of U.S. Public Lands Mike Matz about protecting opportunities for local communities to be involved in the management of National Forests in New Mexico.