WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Members of the Western Caucus released the following statements after Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signed a final decision to construct and maintain a system of up to 11,000 miles of strategically placed fuel breaks to control wildfires within a 223 million- acre area in portions of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington:
"One of the easiest ways to prevent catastrophic wildfires is by properly managing the fuel loads across our Country. Today's announcement is further proof that Secretary Bernhardt and President Trump are using every tool in their arsenal to combat deadly wildfires. Fire season is just around the corner, and I applaud the Trump Administration for taking proactive measures to keep America safe. Now that the environmental studies have been fully completed, it's time to get to work," said Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04).
"Every year, wildfires threaten our communities and public lands throughout the West. In Central Washington, we understand the damage wildfires can cause to our health, our homes, our property, and our local economies. Working to proactively prevent these disasters is exactly what we should be doing, and I applaud the Trump Administration for taking this important step. I look forward to working with BLM to implement this decision in Washington state," said Vice-Chairman for Departments of Interior and Energy Dan Newhouse (WA-04).
"Today marks a significant step forward toward realizing the critical fuel break project in the Great Basin. Fire season is right around the corner, and promoting active forest management through the use of fuel breaks will be critical in mitigating potential fire damage and loss of life in the American West. I want to thank the Trump Administration for their continued partnership on this important issue, and I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure that our forests are healthy and fire-resistant for generations to come," said Vice-Chairman for Indian Affairs and Fisheries Don Young (AK-At Large).
"Given the previous devastating wildfires that many Utah communities are still feeling the effects of, I am pleased to see the Administration taking steps to protect our most vulnerable areas from future fires.By being proactive with wildfire prevention, as opposed to reactive with suppression efforts, this management approach will better keep Utahns safe while shielding our forests and grasslands from further damage as we enter the 2020 fire season," said Vice-Chairman for Federal Lands and New Energy Opportunity John Curtis (UT-03).
"In these uncertain times, I applaud the administration’s persistence on wildfire prevention and active forest management. Our nation’s emergency response systems are already stressed by the ongoing pandemic. The last thing western states need is another catastrophic fire season. Today’s decision will help mitigate some of these fires, undoubtedly saving lives in the process. I would urge Congress to continue to prioritize the management of our public lands. Tools such as the ones approved today will help protect the nearly 40 million people who live nearby unmanaged forests and rangelands, protection that is especially needed under the current circumstances," said Vice-Chairman for Infrastructure and Forestry Bruce Westerman (AR-04).
"Active fire seasons in recent years have amplified the need for more active land management. The Trump Administration has been committed to reducing the risk of wildfires in the West; authorizing the creation of 11,000 miles of fuel breaks in the Great Basin is another example of a promise kept. These fuel breaks will play an important role in slowing and, in some cases, stopping wildfires, while making it easier for firefighters to access at-risk areas," said Vice-Chairman for Agriculture and Chief Business Officer Doug LaMalfa (CA-01).
"Anyone who has driven around the West can see how fuel breaks stop wild fires from becoming catastrophic. Clearing fuels around existing roads is just common sense. This administration is doing what makes sense to keep communities and fire fighters safe while mitigating the fire risks to our landscapes," said Congressman Chris Stewart (UT-02).
"As Idaho looks ahead to the upcoming fire season, which will be particularly difficult during the outbreak of COVID-19, it is imperative we do everything possible to prepare. The Bureau of Land Management’s final Record of Decision to place fuel breaks on existing roads and rights-of-way will provide extra resiliency to BLM’s land in Idaho," said Congressman Russ Fulcher (ID-01).
"Fire season is quickly approaching, and we must do everything we can to prepare our forests and communities for it. The Trump Administration and the Bureau of Land Management are taking action to get more wildfire prevention work done. Utilizing mechanical treatments, grazing, and other techniques along road, power lines and other existing rights of way is a commonsense way to build fuel breaks to help slow, and in some cases completely stop, the spread of devastating wildfires. These are tools ranchers and private landowners in Oregon have been using for generations to increase the health of our forest and rangeland while also decreasing the risk of catastrophic wildfire. This is just another example of President Trump working hard to protect our communities from wildfires, and it will help ensure needed management work gets done across public lands in eastern Oregon," said Congressman Greg Walden (OR-02).
On April 1, 2020, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt signed a final decision to construct and maintain a system of up to 11,000 miles of strategically placed fuel breaks to control wildfires within a 223 million- acre area in portions of California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
The concept behind fuel breaks is to break up or fragment continuous fuels by reducing vegetation in key locations. When a wildfire burns into a fuel break, the flame lengths decrease and its progress slows, making it safer and easier for firefighters to control.
Courtesy of the Department of the Interior:
An electronic copy of the ROD, the Final PEIS for Fuel Breaks in the Great Basin and associated documents are available at https://go.usa.gov/xnQcG.
Informational graphics on Great Basin fuel breaks and how they are effective for combating wildfires in the region can be found on BLM's website.