Montana lawmakers are calling on Congress to reform the federal government’s approach to wildfires as the northwest United States suffers from massive blazes.
Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester made pleas for action on the floor of the Senate Wednesday amidst one of the worst fire seasons in Montana’s history, the Billings Gazette reports.
Daines attacked environmentalists for hampering forest management by constantly litigating timber projects. The GOP senator called for comprehensive reform to get projects approved faster.
“Too many forest management projects have been held up in frivolous litigation at the expense of the people of Montana,” Daines said. “We need litigation relief. We need to reform the process that our land managers go through to get these projects done.”
“I can speak on behalf of all of Montana we are tired of being told that others know better than we do while we watch our forests burn every summer, our mills close, our neighbors lose jobs, our counties lay off road crews because we don’t have the funds anymore to support basic infrastructure, and our communities suffer from the lack of management of our federal lands,” Daines added.
Tester made a different appeal, blaming climate change for the severity of Montana’s fires.
“Climate change is real, and we can’t continue to sit on the sidelines,” the Democratic senator said, according to the Billings Gazette. “We have to take proactive steps to keep it at bay.”
Montana GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte also brought up Montana’s plight in the House.
“Drought conditions are severe. Over 40 wildfires continue to rage, and more than 900,000 acres have burned,” Gianforte said in a statement. “Ash rains down on our homes and schools, and poor air quality threatens the health of Montanans, particularly our children and seniors. And our livelihoods are at risk.”
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