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Department of Defense Appropriations Act - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, Senator Udall of Colorado and I are offering this amendment to provide the Forest Service with sufficient resources to meet the demands of wildfire fighting this fiscal year.

Our amendment to the Sandy supplemental would close the gap between the budget request and the actual expected need for wildfire management this year. Over the last 15 years, the cost of wildfire suppression has increased fivefold, but the Forest Service's budget certainly has not. The reason we have had wildfire suppression increasing by fivefold is because the frequency and severity of fires have both increased.

The Forest Service, instead, has had to borrow money set aside for nonfire purposes, cutting into important programs such as timber production and watershed restoration. Borrowing against other accounts is occasionally unavoidable, but it is generally bad policy. We have a chance to avoid this situation by adopting my amendment No. 3350.

The West experienced its worst fire season in decades this past year. Over 1 million acres burned in Montana and over 9 million acres burned across the country. Three States had major emergency disaster declarations due to fire. We cannot afford to get caught unprepared this coming summer. Nearly one-fifth of the West remains in extreme or exceptional drought, and over 60 percent of the High Plains remains in extreme or exceptional drought. Let's be prepared. Let's be responsible. I would urge a ``yes'' vote on this amendment tomorrow.

With that, I yield the floor.


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