In the Oct. 8 news article “Burning through wildfire budgets,” forestry experts and environmental groups referred to the method that Congress uses to determine funding levels to battle wildfires as “inadequate at a time when climate change is causing longer periods of dryness and drought.”
If the number of wildfires were rising because of climate change, this would be reflected in the appropriation, which is based on the previous 10-year average cost of fighting wildfires — regardless of the contributing factors.
The health of our national forests has been in decline for decades due to aging forests, lack of management, restrictive land-use policies and decades of fire suppression, which has led to the buildup of combustibles and, as a result, spawned wildfires. As forest management has declined, so too has revenue to the U.S. Treasury and local counties that came from harvesting these taxpayer-owned resources.
Today, we only harvest one-tenth of the net growth on our national forests — not including wilderness or roadless areas. The challenges we face with climate change will pale in comparison with the threat of catastrophic wildfires if poor management continues, and that is a destined result with a Forest Service that’s forced to act more as firefighter than forest manager.
Glenn Thompson, Washington
The writer, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania’s 5th District in the U.S. House and chairs the Agriculture subcommittee on conservation, energy and forestry.