Tester calls for more research, technology to put brakes on global warming

Senator says climate change largely to blame for devastating wildfires

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – With wildfires still burning in Big Sky Country, Senator Jon Tester today said the federal government has to get a handle on global warming in order to proactively fight and prevent devastating wildfires.

That's why, Tester said, it's important to invest in research and new technology to put the brakes on climate change.

Tester today told his colleagues about Montana's long and expensive 2007 wildfire season during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  Experts told the committee that climate change is making wildfires across the U.S. worse every year.

"On my farm, summers are longer, hotter and dryer," said Tester, who runs a 1,800 farm near Big Sandy.  "Rain comes at different times of the year, and we plant earlier and harvest later than we did when I was a kid. These same problems are destroying our forests and making forest fires worse."

Tester added that wildfire has already burned more than 800,000 acres in Montana this summer—and the season isn't over yet.  The State of Montana spent $40 million dollars in suppression costs this year alone.

"Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem, but these fires are burning unnaturally, threatening communities, burning homes and scorching our federal and state budgets," Tester said.  "I think you can partly blame a build-up of fuels in the forest, but global warming plays an even bigger role."

Tester toured numerous wildfires across Montana over the last several weeks.  He also announced support for a plan to set up a federal trust fund to help pay for wildfire suppression.

"The cost of doing nothing is far greater," Tester said.  "Fighting these unnatural fires takes away resources from things like recreation and timber harvests.  And that means other priorities like education, health care, renewable energy and infrastructure improvements take a back seat."