Aug 20, 2018

Campaign Briefing: Morse Mariposa Gazette Interview

The Mariposa Gazette just published an article by editor Greg Little recounting an interview with Jessica Morse on fire policy with a stunning number of mis-statements and misrepresentations. 

“It starts with getting adequate funding,” said Morse. “We have a representative right now who has been ignoring our communities. The level of funding he has been putting in is eaten up in one forest fire.”  Morse believes “actual funding” to focus on “fire prevention” is critical, so that money is “not going to be taken by a disaster.” 

Over the last ten years, the combined Forest Service/DOI wildfire management appropriations have averaged $3.7 billion.  Last year, they were $4.2 billion.  McClintock co-sponsored and helped draft the Resilient Federal Forests Acts of 2015 and 2017, which solved the fire-borrowing problem by funding fires as any other natural disaster.  When spear-heading passage of the 2017 Act last year, McClintock said: “Worse, the steadily deteriorating situation is forcing managers to raid forest treatment and fire prevention funds to pay for the growing costs for wildfire suppression, creating a death spiral – the more we raid prevention funds the more wildfires we have; the more wildfires we have, the more we raid prevention funds.”

But this still misses the point.  Forest management used to MAKE us money when we auctioned off excess timber – 25 percent of the proceeds went to our local governments and the other 75 percent paid for the Forest Service and then some.  Environmental laws like NEPA and ESA have added so much cost and delay to forest management it ends up costing money and doesn’t get done.  McClintock’s legislation contained in the 2016 WIIN Act has made a dramatic difference in cutting the environmental review on forest thinning projects in the Tahoe Basin from more than 800 pages to less than 40, and breaking the gridlock these laws have created.

She also said the forest service has a hiring freeze which has left 700 vacancies in Region 5, which includes this region.

Morse left out one fact: the President’s hiring freeze EXEMPTED forest service personnel.  At latest report, Region 5 needed to fill 1,600 seasonal vacancies and have filled all but 200 which are still being hired.

“The reason it is turning into a firefighting operation is because there are not funds put into forest management,” said Morse… “Most people you talk to in the forest service (say) they have never been given the resources to actually get ahead of the curve,” said Morse.”  

Morse forgets that before NEPA, ESA and other so-called environmental laws, foresters could designate surplus timber and auction it without endlessly time-consuming and ultimately cost-prohibitive environmental reviews, mitigation requirements and litigation.  We are unable to find any instance where she has called for overhaul of these laws to expedite forest thinning and return the Forest Service to a positive cash-flow.

“Morse was also critical of McClintock, who she said did not sign a bipartisan letter drafted by California lawmakers asking for federal assistance in the current wildfire season, which could be the worst in the state’s history.”   

The letter she refers to ignored the ongoing Ferguson and Donnell Fires actually burning in the Fourth Congressional District, and asked for assistance ONLY with fires in other parts of the state.  McClintock spear-headed a letter from House members asking for equal consideration of the fires in all parts of the state – including the Fourth Congressional District.

She accused McClintock of “voting party line 97 percent of the time and then complaining about the issues. Her conclusion: “That is negligence.”

According to the Washington Post’s analysis of party line voting in the 113th Congress, McClintock was one of the most independent members of the House, ranking 334th out of 435 members in party-line votes at 92 percent.

Tom McClintock
Tom`s Blog