WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers from Western states like Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden believe the federal government must act now to deal with and prevent wildfire devastation.
“These are not your grandfather’s fires — they’re vastly more powerful, they’re weather-changing,” Wyden said.
Lawmakers say Colorado and California recorded their worst fire seasons in 2020 and this year, fires in California have already burned three times more land compared to the same period last year.
“In 2020 alone, Nevada had 800 wildfires — 800. And we’re seeing another devastating fire season in the West,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).
Democrats like Cortez Masto have introduced several pieces of legislation to help with wildfire prevention, suppression and recovery. But Democrats say fighting climate change is equally as important through the ambitious clean energy projects in their infrastructure package.
Republicans say they support traditional infrastructure investments but oppose the $3.5-billion package that includes climate mitigation.
“One will help the economy, the other will take inflation to new heights,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
But Democrats say keeping the status quo is even more irresponsible.
“Our current policy is fiscally completely irresponsible penny wise and pound foolish. It costs $50,000 an acre to fight fires — it costs $1,500 an acre to do the mitigation,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO).