As smoke blankets the Northeast, Sen. Mike Lee calls wildfires a ‘severe’ problem in the West
At a hearing Thursday, several Western lawmakers spoke up about problems with federal forest management
As smoke from wildfires burning in Canada blanket the Northeast, Utah Sen. Mike Lee pointed out that wildfires in the West are an “ongoing” and “severe” problem.
“Most Easterners aren’t used to dealing with this level of smoke — and by Easterners I mean basically anybody to the east of Colorado — but, this is an unfortunate recurring reality for us in the West,” Lee said.
At a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing Thursday, Lee showed a photo of the Salt Lake City skyline where it was obscured by smoke from wildfires. Lee said when California has fires, Utah is blanketed in a “thick, oppressive layer of smoke.”
At the hearing, lawmakers heard about the risk and management of wildfires, and problems with recruiting firefighters.
Lee said that wildfires in the West “don’t cause quite the national stir” as recent events in Canada, even though they happen frequently. He blamed the wildfires on poor forest management.
He asked Kelly Norris, who works with the Wyoming State Forestry Division, why states seem to be able to manage their land better than the federal government, and she said federal agencies face more legal restrictions than states and private landowners.
Lee wasn’t the only Western lawmaker who pointed out the different national response to wildfire smoke in the East versus the ongoing problem in the West.
“I think America is waking up, at least on the East Coast, to this problem. We certainly have known all about it on the West Coast for some time now,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., at the hearing.
Idaho Sen. Jim Risch said, “For those of you who live on the East Coast, welcome to our air in the West.”