Gianforte and US Representatives meet with forest experts in Mon - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Gianforte and US Representatives meet with forest experts in Montana

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At a meeting hosted on August 7 by Representative Greg Gianforte, fire experts proposed some new ideas for wildfire management.

The Congressional Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, and Environment hosted three panelists in Ravalli County, each with their own takes on reducing the impacts of fires, from reducing environmental restrictions to increasing staffing for firefighting crews. This meeting was unusual, because Congressional subcommitees rarely meet in Montana.

Shawna Legarza, Director of Fire and Aviation Management for the U.S. Forest Service, served as one of the panelists. "We don’t call them fire seasons anymore, we have fire years.” She stressed the importance of collaboration between local, state, and federal agencies while putting out fires.

Former Forest Service director Richard Stem said that the Forest Service should achieve short-term goals of filling the Forest Service’s staff by rapidly hiring fire personnel. Stem, who now works as a consultant for firefighting agencies, also said agencies need to “deal in a totally different and expedited way with challenges to projects” and that 40-year-old Council on Environmental Quality regulations need to be revised to fit modern demands. 

Jeff Burrows, chairman of the Ravalli County Board of Commissioners, said that “cumbersome NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) projects have caused forest to burn before the analysis can be finished.” He said that lawmakers should increase their focus on public health and safety involving wildfires, and that they should address treating the wildland-urban interface. 

Congressman Greg Gianforte, said he will “keep pushing back in Congress” to get legislation passed to remedy the forest management issues that contribute to wildfires.

Gianforte is running for reelection against Democrat Kathleen Williams. In a press release, the Williams campaign criticized the lack of public input at the meeting. They said, “Kathleen will sit down with any Montanan who wants to solve issues facing Big Sky Country while, once again, Representative Gianforte has failed Montana. Montanans are clearly ready for change.” 

The comments were in response to the format of the briefing, which allowed no public comment. Gianforte explained during the meeting, “This official congressional briefing has a very specific structure that does not allow public input.” 

The House Subcommittee on the Interior, Energy, & Environment consists of 8 representatives, Republicans Paul Gosar (AZ-4), Dennis Ross (FL-15), Gary J. Palmer (AL-6), James Comer (KY-01), and Gianforte, who serves as chairman, as well as Democrats Stacey E. Plaskett (Virgin Islands), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), and Jimmy Gomez (CA-34). It is a subcommittee of the larger Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

To watch the meeting in its entirety, go to ravalli.us/493/Live-and-Archived-Meetings-Audio-Video

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