With global warming ‘not going away,’ Romney says federal government should look to Utah to prevent wildfires
At a budget committee hearing, Romney also said it should be easier for states to ‘manage’ forests
At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Sen. Mitt Romney recommended the federal government adopt some of Utah’s policies for preventing and dealing with wildfires.
The Utah Republican said with global warming “not going to go away,” state and federal officials are going to have to learn to “deal with the reality that wildfires are going to become an increasing problem,” especially considering the persistent drought.
“So that means we have to think about, OK, how are we going to deal with this?” he said.
Romney said wildfire is a “major issue” in Utah, and with the federal government owning 70% of land in the state, it is important for state and federal government to work together.
At the state level, Utah’s program of warning residents when the threat of wildfires is high is working, Romney said.
“Our state actually has begun a program of contacting people with alerts about fire danger, and that has had an impact on reducing the number of human-caused wildfires,” he said. “So I would suggest that as at least one thing we (should) consider even at the federal level or at least encouraging states to consider.”
Wildfires consume 50% more acres than in the past, Romney noted, blaming the lack of forest management, and pointing to the need to clear deadwood and to thin existing trees. He also recommended controlled burns.
Nicolas Loris of C3 solutions, or the Conservative Coalition for Climate Solutions, agreed with Romney and said this is an area where the private sector and nonprofits could work together to create a “win-win.”
“I think fixing some of the regulatory processes to allow mechanical thinning, to allow prescribed burns to happen more efficiently is a viable and necessary option,” said Loris.
Utah has a hard time navigating federal environmental requirements to do controlled burns at the right time, Romney said, recommending that the federal government speed up the process for approving them. He also said he’d like to see long-term logging contracts to clear deadwood, and more airplanes to help with fighting fires.
Romney also said it takes too long for the federal government to allow remediation after a fire, resulting in flooding and other damage.
“Keeping on doing the things as we’ve been doing them is not the right way to go,” he said.
Romney said his recommendations came out of a commission created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which is tasked with looking at how to reduce forest fires.