Rep. Paul Cook joins Congressional leaders requesting improved federal wildfire reforms

By on October 11, 2017
Lake Fire Spreading Near Yucaipa

As wildfires continue to rage across California at the height of fire season, Rep. Paul Cook (R-8th District-Apple Valley) recently joined 31 other members of Congress in asking for comprehensive forest management and wildland fire budgeting reforms as part of the next disaster relief request. The 32 Congressional leaders penned a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) which said, in part, “Mismanagement has left our forests vulnerable to insects and disease and ripe for catastrophic wildfires. The system is broken. We need forest management reforms, and we need them now.”

OMB responded last Wednesday by announcing a request to Speaker Paul Ryan for $567.5 million for improved firefighting efforts. As a long-time advocate for improvements in federal wildfire policy Rep. Cook praised OMB’s response.

“Wildfire funding is crucial to dealing with the constant deadly threat of wildfires in districts like mine, and I’ve long been an advocate for reforms and improved funding,” said Rep. Cook. “You can only watch so many California fires take lives, destroy homes, and create untold environmental damage before you demand changes in our wildfire policy and budgeting. This administration takes the threat seriously, and I commend them for it. This is long overdue.”

More than 49,500 fires have burned 8.4 million acres so far in 2017 according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has stated that another 80 million acres throughout the country are currently considered ‘high risk.’

But beyond the statistics of the number of fires and the number of acres burned, the problem is more poignant. Eight times in the last twelve years, the USFS has taken funds from other operating accounts and transferred those funds to firefighting purposes. In doing so, they’ve depleted accounts for forest management practices that help prevent catastrophic wildfires.

The USFS has expended more than $2.3 billion to fight fires in fiscal year 2017, thus far, a new record. The House Committee on Natural Resources reports that in 2016, wildfires destroyed 4,312 structures, including 3,192 residences.

Rep. Cook is Yucaipa’s Congressional representative. In addition to his district office in Apple Valley he maintains a field office in Yucaipa at 34282 Yucaipa Boulevard. The Yucaipa office phone number is 909-797-4900; please call prior to visiting the office in order to confirm hours of availability.