Baldwin Presses for Bipartisan Fix to Broken Forest Management Funding System
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin cosponsored a bipartisan bill to fix the broken system for funding wildfire suppression and support Wisconsin’s timber and paper industry. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, introduced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mike Crapo (R-ID), will overhaul federal wildfire policy to boost funding for forest management and treat the largest wildfires as natural disasters.
“Our forests and the timber industry in northern and central Wisconsin are facing a number of challenges that need to be addressed,” said Senator Baldwin. “I am proud to work across party lines, with industry stakeholders in Wisconsin and the U.S. Forest Service to help create a more stable supply of timber from our federal forest lands, while sustainably managing our forest resources. Fixing fire borrowing is an important step forward for our Wisconsin timber economy.”
In recent years, U.S. Forest Service funds have been regularly diverted from Wisconsin forests to fight wildfires in the west, in a process known as “fire borrowing.” The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would solve the chronic problem of funding intended for forest management and fire prevention activities being used for wildfire suppression. By funding major wildfires through the same methods as other natural disasters, the bill will free up the necessary resources for the Forest Service to complete its critical missions related to timber contract management, forest health and forest fire prevention.
“We are pleased to see this bipartisan bill, and hope this Congress can take decisive action to solve a problem that everyone recognizes needs addressing,” said Bill Imbergamo, Executive Director of the Federal Forest Resources Coalition. “This is a fiscally responsible solution with broad support. Anyone who cares about our National Forests should get behind this bill.”
“We fully support the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act,” said Paul J. Pearce, President of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition. “The bill will stop the ‘fire borrowing’ within the agency’s budget, which has caused so many projects on the National Forest to go undone due to lack of sufficient seasonal dollars. These projects include everything from restoration to collaborative enhancement projects to timber sales. The borrowing does not just hit dollars, but personnel are moved as well. We appreciate the sponsorship and hard work of the Senators bringing this bill forward.”
Throughout her time in the Senate, Baldwin has worked to promote the Northern Wisconsin timber economy. In July 2014, Senator Baldwin spoke at an ENR Committee Hearing, "Wildfire Preparedness & Forest Service 2015 Fiscal Year Budget” and on the Senate floor urging her colleagues to fix the broken budget process. Baldwin also authored a column in the Appleton Post Crescent titled “Wisconsin Forests Deserve Better” to highlight a bipartisan and fiscally responsible solution to fire borrowing, which is a devastating problem with wide-ranging impacts for Wisconsin forests and the state’s timber industry.
In August, Baldwin toured the Nicolet Hardwoods log yard and mill and meet with Gordon Connor of Nicolet Hardwoods, Wisconsin Council on Forestry Chairman Henry Schienebeck, Wisconsin County Forests Association Executive Director Jane Severt, Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association President Mark Huempfner and others to discuss Wisconsin’s timber economy. Baldwin also sat down with the Northeast Wisconsin Forest Improvement Collaborative (NEWFIC) to discuss ways to provide certainty to Wisconsin’s forest products industry by improving the pace of logging and predictability of forest management on federal land.
In October, Senator Baldwin invited U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell for a discussion with local stakeholders on the challenges facing Wisconsin’s timber economy. Baldwin and Chief Tidwell toured both public and private forest lands in Northeast Wisconsin and discussed plans to improve management of Wisconsin’s national forest land with local Wisconsin stakeholders.