Ideally, Congress is a place where big ideas are discussed and debated before compromises are crafted. Neither party has a monopoly on smart solutions. So, while it is a good sign that lawmakers are seeking improvements to forest management, the Resilient Federal Forests Act that passed the House of Representatives last week requires additional work.
The bill represents an attempt to reconfigure funding for wildfire prevention and suppression. At issue is the longtime practice of fire borrowing, in which funds earmarked for prevention are used to put out fires. This creates a cycle in which lax prevention leads to more intense fires.
While the Resilient Federal Forests Act passed the House — Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, voted in favor — it appears to have little chance of passing the Senate and being signed by President Trump. From the Democratic view, Washington Sen. Patty Murray said, “What I won’t support is legislation that not only fails to establish long-term solutions, but would also upend our bedrock environmental laws in the process.”
Among the issues is a provision that would refer federal Endangered Species Act lawsuits to arbitration in lieu of a courtroom. This attempt to undermine the law should be rejected; subterfuge should not be equated with action.
Despite the shortcomings of the Resilient Federal Forests Act, lawmakers must continue to seek compromise. As wildfire season annually reminds us in Washington, funding for forest management and wildfire prevention is a pressing issue.