The Roundup -

Senator Tester Announces Western Wildfire Initiative


On July 13, Senator Jon Tester addressed several issues, the first being the fire season in Montana that has expanded earlier into the spring and later into the fall. Fighting fires consumed more than 50% of the Forest Service’s budget last year vs 16% 20 years ago, and the cost is only expected to rise.

“We need to change the way we pay for firefighting,” Tester stated.

The Senator announced his Western Wildlife Initiative, which is three bills designed to aid Montana during fire seasons. The first bill is the Wildlife Disaster Funding Act, which would give the Forest Service access to emergency funding that is available for other types of natural disasters, rather than using funds from the general Forest Service budget. This would mean that more time and money could be spent doing maintenance work such as cutting trees and maintaining trails.

The second bill is the bipartisan Wildfire Mitigation Assistance Act, providing Hazard Mitigation Assistance to communities that have been affected by wildfire. These FEMA funds will assist with building erosion barriers, improve drainage to prevent flooding, and restore burned land, helping to prevent future disaster.

The third bill is the Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act, allowing part-time seasonal employees an opportunity to advance their career with full-time positions in the federal workforce.

“These brave men and women routinely run into harm’s way to protect our communities and we need to ensure they get a fair shake at career advancement,” Tester said.

However, the Senate will be going to recess for seven weeks, with this being the least amount of time that the Senate has been in session in 60 years, and firefighting isn’t the only issue that will be left unresolved over the recess.

“This isn’t because of a lack of solutions, it’s because some folks are refusing to roll up their sleeves and get things done,” he said.

For example, the bi-partisan Veteran’s First Act is currently being blocked by one Senator, meaning that Montana Veterans will continue to have obstacles accessing care.

Additionally, the fact that Judge Merrick Garland was nominated four months ago, and the Judiciary Committee hasn’t had a hearing, has left the Supreme Court with only eight Justices rather than the needed nine.

“Washington is broken but that shouldn’t stop us from working hard and trying to make progress,” Tester encouraged.

The Senator has plans to travel throughout the state over the next few weeks, saying, “Between harvesting and meeting the good people of Montana, it should be a good July, August, and early September.”


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