U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is beginning to voice frustration with the inability of his colleagues to see the connection between underfunded forest management, forest fires, and climate change. It is an issue that is all too real in his state of New Mexico, but has much broader implications to the rest of North America as wildfire carbon emissions, bug infestations, and wildlife extinction become a spiraling problems both contributing to and suffering from global warming. As Domenici testified...
When the Hayman Fire burned in Colorado in 2002, NASA scientists estimated that the fire was emitting more carbon dioxide in one day than all the vehicles in the United States emitted in a week.
The implication is clear. Funding improved forest management and certification programs will reduce greenhouse gases at a level comparable to other renewable energy production programs.
Two benefits of congressional legislation that would support strong woody biomass biorefinery development could be better private-industry funded forest management programs and cleaner wood waste bioenergy processes.
Here is a press release from the Committee's website on June 26th...
Domenici: Forest Fires Are a Climate Change Issue, Too
Senator Expresses Frustration With Lack of Progress In Controlling Wildfires
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today expressed frustration with the lack of progress made to control wildfires in America’s forests.
Domenici, a long-time advocate of forest thinning and an active approach to forest management, spoke today at an Energy Committee hearing to discuss fire preparedness. The Senator expressed frustration with the lack of progress being made to address wildfires, especially in light of the renewed focus on carbon emissions among lawmakers.
“I am growing tired of sitting here year after year after year and asking the same questions. I believe we are now throwing good money after bad on an unworkable model without addressing the underlying fundamental question: what is this Congress going to do to find a way to allow our agencies to change the fuels on-the-ground dynamic to avoid intense catastrophic fires?,” Domenici said.
“Wildfires are a climate change issue, too. When the Hayman Fire burned in Colorado in 2002, NASA scientists estimated that the fire was emitting more carbon dioxide in one day than all the vehicles in the United States emitted in a week. I would hope this committee would be as concerned about this source of carbon dioxide as it is with carbon from coal fired utilities or vehicles,” he continued.
“Federal researchers are now suggesting that it could be as long as 600 years before the area burning in the Hayman Fire fully recovers. If we can avoid these fires, or reduce their intensity, it is something this Congress should and must address,” Domenici said.
Domenici’s comments come after a fire season in which over 9 million acres were burned, and over $2 billion was spent fighting fires. Among the most notable was the Derby Fire, which consumed over 207,000 acres in Montana, and produced smoke columns estimated to be 60,000 feet tall—far taller than power plant emissions.
Defoliated forests are often susceptible to insect damage. The community of Cloudcroft, New Mexico, currently has 15,000-20,000 acres of defoliated forest that is being damaged by insects. This damage could lead to a catastrophic fire.
The Senator noted that recent clear cutting experiments netted positive results, clearing dangerous and dying brush while producing more water and vigorous young forests that are able to fight off insects.
“Like many others, I am worried about the Forest Service becoming an agency with no funds to manage anything other than fires. I believe that an ounce of prevention would be worth more than a pound of cure when it comes to our forests. We must take action to reduce the likelihood of intensity of fires rather than standing by as they destroy our forests, our soils, our water quality, our fish and wildlife populations, and our air quality while pumping millions of tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere year after year,” Domenici said.
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