Chairman Newhouse, Executive Vice Chair LaMalfa Introduce House Bill to Fight Fires, Protect Western Communities
Washington, March 15, 2023 | Amanda Fitzmorris (202-317-0098)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressional Western Caucus Executive Vice Chair Doug LaMalfa (CA-01) introduced H.R. 1586, the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023, with Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04). Senate Western Caucus Chair Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
This bill creates a Clean Water Act exemption for federal, state, local, and tribal firefighting agencies so they can continue to use fire retardant to fight wildfires. A case in the Federal District Court of Montana is being litigated that could ban the use of aerial fire retardants nationwide during the coming 2023 fire season, placing western communities who routinely experience wildland fires at risk.
“Firefighters risk their lives to protect our communities and our forests, and we should listen to them when they tell us that fire retardant makes their job safer and is an essential tool to protect lives,” said Chairman Newhouse. “The 2023 fire season has already started in the drier parts of the country and burned through over 60,000 acres in the first couple of months alone. We must ensure fire retardant remains available to our firefighters for the 2023 fire season in order to avoid the destruction of our communities, and I am proud to introduce this legislation alongside Congressman LaMalfa to do just that.”
“Fire retardant is an essential tool in wildland firefighting, especially in the West. Not only is it absurd to try to take away that tool, it’s flat out dangerous,” said Executive Vice Chair LaMalfa. “These regressive environmentalists are scared that a little bit of fire retardant could get into our rivers while we’re fighting another million-acre fire. But they care nothing about the forests burning down, people and animals fleeing for their lives, and the land covered in ash. Pollution from even larger fires will not only harm fish, but the air pollution will choke vulnerable people up to hundreds of miles away.”
“Radical environmental activists have no idea how dangerous it would be to take away the ability to use fire retardant during a wildfire,” said Senate Western Caucus Chair Cynthia Lummis. “Wildland firefighters in Wyoming and throughout the west need to be able to use every tool available to them in order to control wildfires, which is why I’m introducing the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023 to protect life, public lands and property from fires.”
“When firefighters call in air support, it is because they need it. The last thing our air attack crews need when doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world is the federal government slowing them down with regulatory red tape,” said Rep. Ryan Zinke. “The opposition’s stances have been debunked and the positive results are evident. I’ve stood in Elmo, Montana, and watched scoopers from Bridger Aerospace save homes, ranches and lives. Denying wildland firefighters the ability to implement their most efficient fire retardant technology is like sending troops into battle without air support.”
“Wildfires are a serious threat to life and property throughout the Western United States. Our firefighters need all possible tools to contain any damage caused,” said Rep. Harriet Hageman. “Out of touch eco-activists filing lawsuits to stop the use of aerial fire retardants cannot be allowed to threaten the safety of our citizens, first responders, wildlife, livestock, and forests.”
“Years of neglect and mismanagement by the federal government has resulted in more frequent and destructive wildfires,” said Rep. Russ Fulcher. “We must maximize the tools at our disposal—including fire retardant—in order to better fight the fires that threaten our local communities, economies, environment, and health.”
“Firefighters must have every tool available to fight California’s catastrophic wildfires and save our towns and forests from destruction,” said Rep. Kevin Kiley. “Fire retardant is a vital and lifesaving component of those efforts, and I am proud to join my colleagues in ensuring fire retardant is available to the firefighters depending upon it to protect our communities.”
“It has never been more apparent that firefighters need every tool at their disposal to contain wildfires,” said Rep. Matt Rosendale. “The Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023 will allow firefighters to put their best weapons to use in fighting deadly forest fires and combat frivolous litigation from radical environmental activists that attempt to undermine their efforts.”
The United Aerial Firefighters Association released the following statement of support: “UAFA notes with increasing concern the potential for a federal court to impose a restraining order against the use of aerially applied fire retardant as early as this coming fire season. Fire retardant is a proven, essential tool in assisting wildland firefighters in their fight to contain, control and defeat wildfire. As this lawsuit continues, with the potential to run into its second year, UAFA strongly supports Congressman LaMalfa’s legislation, the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023, which allows the federal, states, and tribal governments to continue the use of aerially applied fire retardants.”
Western Caucus Members cosponsoring the bill include: John Duarte (CA-13), Russ Fulcher (ID-01), Austin Scott (GA-08), Tom McClintock (CA-05), Amata Radewagen (AS-AL), Troy Nehls (TX-22), Lauren Boebert (CO-03), Rick Crawford (AR-01), Ryan Zinke (MT-01), Blake Moore (UT-01), Burgess Owens (UT-04), Mike Simpson (ID-02), Ken Calvert (CA-42), Pete Stauber (MN-08), Darrell Issa (CA-48), Kevin Kiley (CA-03), Matt Rosendale (MT-02), and Harriet Hageman (WY-AL).
Read the full text of the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023 here.
Use the following link to sign up for our newsletter and get the latest news and updates directly to your inbox.