Tester quizzes Forest Service Chief on curbing wildfire

Senator says Forest Jobs and Recreation Act would reduce risk ‘before the first fire is spotted’

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – As Montanans prepare for the 2010 wildfire season, Senator Jon Tester pushed the nation’s top wildfire chief to take proactive steps to head off the consequences of catastrophic wildfires.

During a hearing on Capitol Hill today, Tester quizzed National Forest Chief Tom Tidwell—a former regional forester based in Missoula—on preparations underway as wildfire season approaches.

“Each year, fires get more expensive, harder to control and more dangerous to our communities and Montanans,” Tester told Tidwell.  “We must take proactive steps.  What have you done to lessen the likelihood of catastrophic wildfire before the first fire is spotted?”

Tidwell answered that the Forest Service knows the importance of limiting hazardous fuels in fire-prone ecosystems in order to reduce the threat to forest communities.   Tidwell also said his agency is keeping close track of weather patterns throughout the United States in order to move resources in anticipation of potential wildfires.

Tester cited his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which would create jobs and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires in Montana by requiring restoration—including fuel reduction—on at least 100,000 acres of National Forest land.  Much of the treatment would happen in the Wildland Urban Interface, where communities located near forests are at high risk of wildfire.

Video of Tester’s exchange with Tidwell is available on his website, HERE.