Before Fire Strikes: Preventing Catastrophic Wildfire

By Congressman Paul Gosar, D.D.S. (R-AZ) Arizona’s way of life is repeatedly threatened by bureaucrats who think the best solutions to all of our problems are increased regulations and one-size-fits-all solutions. One of the biggest threats we face not just in Arizona, but throughout the West, is wildfire.  The federal government has an obligation to properly manage our public land, but its ineffective policies put our communities at greater risk, including Arizona agriculture.

Over the last several years, Arizonans were victims to some of the largest wildfires in recorded history. Ponderosa Pine country went up in flames, as the over 800 square mile Wallow Fire sent the Arizona landscape and forests ablaze. This year, the Gladiator Fire had residents fleeing for their lives, and we have seen larger, fiercer wildfires throughout the West. What really smothered our forests, both last year and this year, is the federal red-tape that is wrapped so tightly around our already over-grown forests. A mismanaged forest policy and over-regulation have prevented proper stewardship of our forests and land.

Nearly 80 million acres of forest across the West are overgrown, and each dense acre is the potential catalyst for another catastrophic wildfire. It is in the interest of the public safety, the economic viability of our communities and the ecological health of our public lands to address this pending problem before fires strike.

With input and support of the Arizona Farm Bureau, the Arizona Cattlemen's Association, local governments and other stakeholders, I introduced the Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act of 2012 to authorize the Forest Service and Department of Interior to streamline forest thinning projects on National Forest System and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Take a walk through one of our state’s many beautiful forests and you will find scorched underbrush below perfectly healthy trees. We can be proactive in preventing mega fires through forest thinning techniques: let’s remove the surface and canopy fuels before they have a chance to catch aflame and cause destruction.

Not only will we save taxpayers millions by not having to pick up the tab for these catastrophic fires, but we will also put people back to work in our forests. I worked with my constituents on this common-sense bill and solution to cut back on the bureaucratic gridlock that created favorable conditions for wildfires in the first place.  I look forward to reintroducing this legislation in the next Congress so that Arizonans can better manage their forests to prevent mega fires from occurring.