Tester Demands the Forest Service Listen to Montana Scientists

After Catastrophic Fire Season, Senator Calls for Expert Voices at the Table

(U.S. Senate)—Senator Jon Tester is defending Montana fire experts and calling on the U.S. Forest Service to allow them to present their research at a national wildfire conference.

Tester is demanding that Missoula Fire Lab scientists be allowed to travel to the International Fire Ecology and Management Congress Conference later this month. The Forest Service is reportedly denying requests for Montana fire scientists to attend the conference where critical research will be shared after a catastrophic wildfire season.

“The 2017 wildfire season is the most expensive one in history,” Tester wrote in a letter to Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke. “In Montana alone, we’ve seen more than 1.2 million acres burned by wildfires, with enormous impacts to our state’s outdoor economy, destroyed homes and property, and the tragic loss of two firefighters. Now is the time for us to invest in better understanding wildfire and forest management, not silencing Montana voices who have seen wildfire firsthand.”

Scientists from Missoula’s Fire Science Lab conduct world-class, cutting-edge research on wildfire and its impact on communities and the environment.

Fighting wildfires in Montana has cost taxpayers more than $389 million this year, and almost 9 million acres burned this wildfire season across the country.

The intense wildfire season once again forced the Forest Service to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars from forest management accounts to pay for fire suppression. The cost of fighting wildfires has dramatically increased from 16 percent of the Forest Service’s budget in 1995 to over 50 percent today.

During a Senate Floor speech last week, Tester pushed the Senate to move forward with his bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act to provide a long-term funding fix for the Forest Service by ending fire borrowing and funding catastrophic wildfires the same way as other natural disasters.

Tester’s letter to Forest Chief Tooke is available HERE.