Romney Announces Legislation To Target The Country’s Wildfire Problems
In the midst of historic drought and extreme fire danger, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, announced legislation Friday in Draper to address the country’s wildfire policies.
His bill would create a commission tasked with recommending ways to mitigate and manage wildfires. It would be made up of 28 people from federal, state and local agencies. They’ll look into forest management, the finances of fighting fires and long-term solutions.
Standing at a trailhead in the wooded foothills of the Wasatch, Romney said the extreme conditions across the West are raising awareness about how serious of an issue wildfires have become.
“We're going to have to take advantage of this circumstance to get Congress to put together this commission, to give it the funding it needs and to use the resources we have to finally be able to effectively address this problem,” he said.
This year there have been over 380 wildfires in Utah that have burned more than 40,000 acres. The state has also seen abnormally high temperatures and low humidity for this time of year, and these conditions have already exacerbated firefighting efforts.
Romney said as climate change continues to warm and dry the region, the country needs to do something different than it has in the past.
“We're treating [wildfire] like it's no big deal. [But] no, it is a big deal,” he said. “We’ve got to get serious about it, and spend whatever it takes to mitigate the risk associated with these fires and make sure we can put them out.”
Jamie Barnes, the acting director of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, said this bill could help the state move forward from its current “unprecedented” conditions.
“We must convene and make the best policy decisions,” she said. “We must manage lands and prevent catastrophic wildfires. This act addresses the importance of collaboration, bringing forward the best tools and addressing major problems.”
The legislation still has to make its way through Congress. Romney said it may be part of the infrastructure bill currently being discussed, and that Rep. John Curtis, R-UT, also plans to introduce the bill in the House. In the meantime, he encouraged Utahns to do their part to prevent human-caused fires.