Mr. RAHALL. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 5541) to provide a supplemental funding source for catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression activities on Department of the Interior and National Forest System lands, to require the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a cohesive wildland fire management strategy, and for other purposes, as amended.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
The text of the bill is as follows:
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.
(a) Short Title.--This Act may be cited as the ``Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act'' or ``FLAME Act''.
(b) Table of Contents.--The table of contents for this Act is as follows:
Sec..1..Short title; table of contents.
Sec..2..Flame Fund for catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression activities.
Sec..3..Cohesive wildland fire management strategy.
Sec..4..Review of certain wildfires to evaluate cost containment in wildland fire suppression activities.
Sec..5..Reducing risk of wildfires in fire-ready communities.
SEC. 2. FLAME FUND FOR CATASTROPHIC EMERGENCY WILDLAND FIRE SUPPRESSION ACTIVITIES.
(a) Definitions.--In this section:
(1) FEDERAL LAND.--The term ``Federal land'' means the following:
(A) Public lands, as defined in section 103 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1702).
(B) Units of the National Park System.
(C) Refuges of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
(D) Lands held in trust by the United States for the benefit of Indian tribes or individual Indians.
(E) Lands in the National Forest System, as defined in section 11(a) of the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (16 U.S.C. 1609(a)).
(2) FLAME FUND.--The term ``Flame Fund'' means the Federal Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Fund established by this section.
(3) SECRETARY CONCERNED.--The term ``Secretary concerned'' means--
(A) the Secretary of the Interior, with respect to Federal land described in subparagraphs (A), (B), (C), and (D) of paragraph (1); and
(B) the Secretary of Agriculture, with respect to National Forest System land.
(4) SECRETARIES.--The term ``Secretaries'' means the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture, acting jointly.
(b) Establishment and Availability of Flame Fund.--
(1) ESTABLISHMENT.--There is established in the Treasury of the United States a fund to be known as the Federal Land Assistance, Management, and Enhancement Fund.
(2) CONTENTS.--The Flame Fund shall consist of the following amounts:
(A) Amounts appropriated to the Flame Fund pursuant to the authorization of appropriations in subsection (c).
(B) Amounts transferred to the Flame Fund pursuant to subsection (d).
(3) AVAILABILITY.--Subject to subsection (e), amounts in the Flame Fund shall be available to the Secretaries to pay the costs of catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression activities that are separate from amounts annually appropriated to the Secretaries for the predicted annual workload for wildland fire suppression activities, based on analyses of historical workloads and anticipated increased workloads due to changing environmental or demographic conditions.
(c) Authorization of Appropriations.--
(1) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.--There is authorized to be appropriated to the Flame Fund such funds as may be necessary to carry out this section. It is the intent of Congress that the amount appropriated to the Flame Fund for fiscal year 2009 and each subsequent fiscal year equal the average amount expended by the Secretaries for emergency wildland fire suppression activities over the five fiscal years preceding that fiscal year.
(2) SENSE OF CONGRESS ON DESIGNATION OF CERTAIN APPROPRIATIONS AS EMERGENCY REQUIREMENT.--It is the sense of Congress that the amounts appropriated to the Flame Fund that are above the average of the obligations of the preceding 10 years for wildland fire suppression in the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior, adjusted for inflation, should be designated as amounts necessary to meet emergency needs, and the new budget authority and outlays resulting therefrom should not
count for the purposes of titles III and IV of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
(3) NOTICE OF INSUFFICIENT FUNDS.--The Secretaries shall notify the congressional committees specified in subsection (h)(2) whenever only an estimated two months worth of funding remains in the Flame Fund.
(d) Transfer of Excess Wildland Fire Suppression Amounts Into Flame Fund.--At the end of each fiscal year, the Secretary concerned shall transfer to the Flame Fund amounts appropriated to the Secretary concerned for wildland fire suppression activities for the fiscal year, but not obligated for wildland fire suppression activities before the end of the fiscal year.
(e) Use of Flame Fund.--
(1) DECLARATION REQUIRED.--Amounts in the Flame Fund shall be made available to the Secretary concerned only after the Secretaries issue a declaration that a wildland fire suppression activity is eligible for funding through the Flame Fund. [Page: H6286]
(2) DECLARATION CRITERIA.--A declaration by the Secretaries under paragraph (1) shall be based on the following criteria:
(A) In the case of an individual wildland fire incident--
(i) the fire covers 300 or more acres;
(ii) the severity of the fire, which may be based on incident complexity or the potential for increased complexity; and
(iii) the threat posed by the fire, including the potential for loss of lives, property, or critical resources.
(B) Consistent with subsection (f), in the case of a firefighting season, cumulative wildland fire suppression activities, when the costs of those activities for the Secretary concerned are projected to exceed amounts annually appropriated.
(3) TRANSFER OF AMOUNTS TO SECRETARY CONCERNED.--After issuance of a declaration under paragraph (1) and upon the request of the Secretary concerned, the Secretary of the Treasury shall transfer from the Flame Fund to the Secretary concerned such amounts as the Secretaries determine are necessary for wildland fire suppression activities associated with the declared suppression emergency.
(4) STATE, PRIVATE, AND TRIBAL LAND.--Use of the Flame Fund for catastrophic emergency wildland fire suppression activities on State and private land and, where applicable, tribal land shall be consistent with existing agreements where the Secretaries have agreed to assume responsibility for wildland fire suppression activities on the land.
(f) Treatment of Anticipated and Predicted Activities.--The Secretary concerned shall continue to fund anticipated and predicted wildland fire suppression activities within the appropriate agency budget for each fiscal year. Use of the additional funding made available through the Flame Fund is intended to supplement the budgeted and appropriated agency funding and is to be used only for purposes and in instances consistent with this section.
(g) Prohibition on Other Transfers.--All amounts in the Flame Fund, as well as all funds appropriated for the purpose of wildland fire suppression on Federal land, must be obligated before the Secretary concerned may transfer funds from non-fire accounts for wildland fire suppression.
(h) Accounting and Reports.--
(1) ACCOUNTING AND REPORTING SYSTEM.--The Secretaries shall establish an accounting and reporting system for the Flame Fund compatible with existing National Fire Plan reporting procedures.
(2) ANNUAL REPORT.--The Secretaries shall submit to the Committee on Natural Resources, the Committee on Agriculture, and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Committee on Indian Affairs, and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate an annual report on the use of the funds from the Flame Fund, together with any recommendations that the Secretaries may have to improve the administrative control and oversight
of the Flame Fund.
(3) PUBLIC AVAILABILITY.--The annual report required by paragraph (2) shall be made available to the public.
SEC. 3. COHESIVE WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY.
(a) Strategy Required.--Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture shall submit to Congress a report that contains a cohesive wildland fire management strategy, consistent with the recommendations contained in recent Comptroller General reports regarding this issue.
(b) Elements of Strategy.--The strategy required by subsection (a) shall address the findings of the Comptroller General in the reports referred to in such subsection and include the following elements:
(1) A system to identify the most cost effective means for allocating fire management budget resources.
(2) An illustration of plans by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to reinvest in non-fire programs.
(3) A description of how the Secretaries will employ appropriate management response.
(4) A system for assessing the level of risk to communities.
(5) A system to ensure that the highest priority fuels reduction projects are being funded first.
(c) Notice of Prescribed Fires.--As part of the strategy required by subsection (a) for the Forest Service, the Secretary of Agriculture shall ensure that, before any prescribed fire is used on National Forest System land, owners of adjacent private land are notified in writing of the date and scope of the proposed prescribed fire.
SEC. 4. REVIEW OF CERTAIN WILDFIRES TO EVALUATE COST CONTAINMENT IN WILDLAND FIRE SUPPRESSION ACTIVITIES.
(a) Review Required.--The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture shall conduct a review, using independent panels, of each wildfire incident for which the Secretary concerned incurs expenses in excess of $10,000,000.
(b) Report.--The Secretary concerned shall submit to the Committee on Natural Resources, the Committee on Agriculture, and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Committee on Indian Affairs, and the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate a report containing the results of each review conducted under subsection (a).
SEC. 5. REDUCING RISK OF WILDFIRES IN FIRE-READY COMMUNITIES.
(a) Fire-Ready Community Defined.--In this section, the term ``fire-ready community'' means a community that--
(1) is located within a priority area identified pursuant to subsection (b);
(2) has a cooperative fire agreement that articulates the roles and responsibilities for Federal, State and local government entities in local wildfire suppression and protection;
(3) has local codes that require fire-resistant home design and building materials;
(4) has a community wildfire protection plan (as defined in section 101 of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6502)); and
(5) is engaged in a successful collaborative process that includes multiple interested persons representing diverse interests and is transparent and nonexclusive, such as a resource advisory committee established under section 205 of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-393; 16 U.S.C. 500 note).
(b) Fire Risk Mapping.--As soon as is practicable after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior (in this section referred to as the ``Secretaries'') shall develop regional maps of communities most at risk of wildfire and in need of hazardous fuel treatment and maintenance. The maps shall identify priority areas for hazardous fuels reduction projects, including--
(1) at-risk communities in fire-prone areas of the wildland-urban interface (as defined in section 101 of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6502));
(2) watersheds and municipal drinking water sources;
(3) emergency evacuation corridors;
(4) electricity transmission corridors; and
(5) low-capacity or low-income communities.
(c) Local Wildland Firefighting Capability Grants.--
(1) GRANTS AVAILABLE.--The Secretaries may provide cost-share grants to fire-ready communities to assist such communities in carrying activities authorized by paragraph (2).
(2) ELIGIBLE ACTIVITIES.--Grant funds may be used for the following:
(A) Education programs to raise awareness of homeowners and citizens about wildland fire protection practices, including FireWise or similar programs.
(B) Training programs for local firefighters on wildland firefighting techniques and approaches.
(C) Equipment acquisition to facilitate wildland fire preparedness.
(D) Implementation of a community wildfire protection plan.
(d) Wildland Fire Cost-Share Agreements.--In developing any wildland fire cost-share agreement with a State Forester or equivalent official, the Secretaries shall, to the greatest extent possible, encourage the State and local communities involved to become fire-ready communities.
(e) Authorization of Appropriations.--There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretaries to carry out this section such sums as may be necessary.
Mr. SALI. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
Fire season is here and wildlands are in flames across the Nation as we speak. California is currently reporting 24 large fires, and along with California, there are large wildland fires burning in Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Since January of this year, some 46,113 wildland fires have burned more than 2.71 million acres, destroying more than 461 residences, 15 commercial buildings, and 979 outbuildings. But it's not just property, homes, community, watersheds or livelihoods that are at stake when a wildland fire burns. Lives are also in danger, and since January of this year alone, eight firefighters have died while on duty to fight wildland fires.
For many areas of the country, the wildland fire season is just beginning.
This is an issue that I have familiarity with, as each year in Idaho the skies fill with smoke from fires. Last year alone, more than 2 million acres burned in Idaho, threatening lives, homes, and communities.
I commend the gentleman from West Virginia, my chairman, on his initiative to move a bill and bring this critical issue before the House of Representatives today. Real solutions to these deadly and growing wildfires must be found, and I appreciate his efforts to this end.
Regrettably, the bill before us today will not do enough to address the raging wildfires across this country. Communities, homes, and lives will remain at risk from wildland fires.
There is no question that there are budget issues that must be addressed. We require the Forest Service to fight these fires, while we have handcuffed that agency at the same time, whether through its budget or with forest management practices.
Over and over again on this floor, we have had discussions of how to pay for the measures that are passed by this body. And yet, the Forest Service used to provide a source of revenue. It used to manage Federal lands, selling the harvested timber and thereby bringing in revenue.
Today, in most areas, active harvesting and forest management is nonexistent on Federal lands. This has had a twofold effect. There's less and less money generated by the Forest Service, while there are also ever-growing fuel loads on federally managed lands.
I agree that we cannot expect an agency to budget for the very large wildland fires that we have seen develop over the last 6 or 7 years. To do that is something like asking an American family not only to budget for ordinary and foreseeable expenses, like dental care, health care and car repairs, but also to budget for a serious car accident or tragic health crisis that would eat up 50 percent of their entire budget for the year.
Yet that is the point we have reached with the Forest Service. Today, roughly 48 percent of the Forest Service's budget is dedicated to wildland fires, but we still expect the Service to be able to budget for these fires.
We agree there is a problem with the funding. Unfortunately, this bill doesn't fix that problem. While well-intended, this bill fails to correct the 10-year funding average problem we currently face. Even if it did, merely erasing and rewriting lines in a ledger book does nothing to fix the crisis on the ground in federally managed lands. Moving money to different accounts will not solve the problem.
While well-intentioned, unfortunately the bill before us today fails to address the more critical issue, forest management. The greatest obstacle our public land managers face in preventing catastrophic wildfires isn't dollars, it is having the ability to overcome mountains of red tape and lawsuits filed by extremists. The laws that Congress has created in an attempt to save our forests have now become the biggest obstacles to saving them from wildfires.
Congress should not be addressing funding for suppressing these large fires without addressing the cause of these large fires as well, the increasing and unchecked fuel loads in our national forests that surround or are adjacent to homes and communities.
The critical link between pre-fire forest management and fire fighting was illustrated at the hearing we had on this bill in the Natural Resources Committee in April.
During that hearing, Arizona Governor Jane Napolitano, a Democrat, testified that the 2006 woody fire near Flagstaff, Arizona, was halted before it reached 100 acres because of the hazardous fuels treatment that had been done in that area. And according to Governor Napolitano, those treatments dramatically minimized the fire's devastation.
Similarly, during that hearing our colleague Norm Dicks testified about the large fuel loads that continue to accumulate in Federal forests.
He pointed out that the larger fires have resulted from increasing tree density and fuel loads.
We will continue to have larger and larger fires until we reduce fuel-loading. Until we provide the tools for pre-fire forest management to reduce fuel-loading, the western United States will [Page: H6288]
continue to see homes burn, watersheds destroyed, and even lives lost. We must provide the tools to preempt these devastating fires, the kind of preemption pointed to by Governor Napolitano that protected so many people and homes in the 2006 Woody Fire near Flagstaff.
Last year, during the Poe Cabin fire in Idaho, in one area the fire moved some three miles in a mere 20 minutes. In that area, several homes that had defensible space around them due to fuel reductions on private land survived the fire, while other structures in that area without defensible space did not survive.
One of these homeowners was able to get his wife out while he stayed just a bit longer to finish loading his truck. However, because of the fast-moving and intense fire combined with the heavy fuel-loading on Federal ground, he became trapped by the fire and was unable to leave. While this could have quickly become a tragic story, this man lived and his home survived thanks to the fuel reduction that had been done around his home.
While this was a result of the fuel reduction done wholly on private ground, many communities and individuals abutting these forests do not have the luxury of enough land to adequately protect the communities, watersheds, homes and lives. Providing the tools to these communities to protect their homes, livelihoods and very lives from these devastating fires is something we can and must do when addressing long-term funding to suppress the fires. We should be discussing solutions like the one I
proposed, H.R. 4245, to provide the agencies with one more tool to reduce hazardous fuel loads around communities and homes.
In the great State of Idaho, many communities have put the time and energy into developing Community Wildfire Protection Plans, but implementation of many of these plans has been significantly delayed in large part because of the NEPA process. These CWPPs, as my colleagues know, are cooperative plans, requiring community collaboration and input in the formation of the plan. By delaying treatment for the safety of communities through unbelievable red tape, we subject these communities to be threatened
by large wildfires.
Mr. Speaker, this is not only a bipartisan issue, this is a nonpartisan issue. It's about public safety and sound forest management that will benefit millions of Americans. My bill, which I would urge this body to take up as it addresses these wildland fires, would provide for a categorical exclusion from the NEPA process to provide another tool for timely treatments to protect these communities from large and devastating fires and preserve our pristine national forests. Too many homes have burned
and too many lives have already been lost. We must provide real tools for firefighting.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I would reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. RAHALL. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California, an individual who has some firsthand experience with these fires, Mr. Sam Farr.
Mr. FARR. I thank Chairman Rahall for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the FLAME Act. I rise in support of the act with background experience of having been a seasonal firefighter for the U.S. Department of Forestry when I was a young college student. And I rise with the experience of being on the base and complex fire in Big Sur many times last week.
What I have learned from my experience throughout my life is that what we have done in responding to fires has been the best organizational structure in government. The whole incident command structure is now being used--it started in a California fire, and being used all over the United States and the rest of the world for how we should manage emergency incidents like fires; in fact, our whole structure within homeland security, which is essentially a lot of money that we spent to bring to one
stop so that we can bring the resources necessary for prevention and response.
The one area, though, that has never been addressed has actually been in the area where we have to respond year after year after year, which is wildland fires. Last year, the U.S. Forest Service spent $1 billion on fires. And essentially that spending is an emergency process. And what happens at the end of the year is, when you want to say, okay, now it has stopped, the fire season, we have some time, let's go and do some prevention, let's do some control burns and do things like that, and we
have no money to do it. And what this great bill does is it sets up a special fund that essentially recognizes that we need to have that emergency money there available to respond to emergencies.
And I would just like to say that in California we have really changed the nature of our whole State through our fire experiences. And we have changed the Department of Forestry in California.
Mr. FARR. What this bill does is now, for the first time, to bring the Federal Government together and say let's do the same thing we've done with homeland security; let's have one stop, let's have fire planning; let's have prevention, and let's have the ability to respond. This is a great bill.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor today in support of this legislation and feel that it's a good first step. Unfortunately, it doesn't do quite what it was supposed to do, which was to really wall this off as emergency funding and address the problem. But it does authorize the money. It does set up a separate budget account.
Today in the Forest Service they spend 47 percent of their budget fighting fire. And for many years I've argued on this floor that what happens is we get the fire season, the Forest Service runs out of money, so then they rob from all the accounts where they had the projects in place to do the thinning to reduce the threat of fire for the next year. And then time runs out in the season, they can't do those projects, and we get fire. And then we restore the money as a Congress, and we repeat the
And today in America there are tens of millions, if not hundreds, of acres of Federal forest land that are subject to catastrophic fire, disease and bug infestation. If you're concerned about global warming and think carbon additions to the atmosphere are the problem, then you need to know that every year 290 million metric tons of carbon dioxide go into our atmosphere from forest fires. That's the equivalent of 4 to 6 percent of the Nation's carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning.
This portrait here is a picture of Judge Steve Grasty, a Democrat in my district, his grandkids. And they're standing out in the Egley fire after it occurred in Harney Country. This fire burned well over 100,000 acres in an area that obviously needed thinning and hadn't been thinned.
And that's part of what brings me to the floor today, not only to support this bill--because I think it makes sense to have a separate firefighting budget, I think it makes sense to identify the most highest risk areas that need the treatment and to go in and treat them and to help the communities with grants and the things that are in this bill--but we need to do more than that because we should have learned the lesson that a treated forest is a healthier forest.
When we collectively passed the Healthy Forest Restoration Act and signed into law by President Bush in 2003, the Forest Service began to have the tools to expedite the treatments in the wildland urban interface. And the collaborative process my colleague from Idaho talked about that brought together the Community Wildfire Protection Planning Program allowed them to go outside the 1.5 mile around the community, and the community decided what needed to be treated.
The problem in my region, region six in the northwest, the great forest of America, is that most of the fires--over 1,400 of them in 2007--started up in the ridge lines and deep in the forest. Only a dozen or two dozen started right around the wildland urban interface.
The foresters who are the trained scientists that deal with fire environment tell me they need to take that Healthy Forest Restoration authority we gave them as a Congress in a bipartisan way [Page: H6289]
and expand it out into the Condition Class 2 and 3 lands, the lands determined by the scientists to be most out of whack with balance in nature, to go in and do the thinning. And we know where that occurs, fire behaves differently. And you all from California know
very clearly, this is the kind of fire you have today, it sweeps through these areas that are overstocked, bug-infested, disease-ridden, dried out and can't handle fire. This is the same area of that fire, the Squire's Peak Fire, that had been treated.
This area that's burning is the area they hadn't treated yet. This is the difference. Look at the green growth here. The fire went through under the brush that had been treated, and it's fine. This picture, by the way, was shot by the last guy doing treatment as they drove away from the fire. They were out doing the treatment, and then they turned into firefighters and he shot that out of the back of his rig.
So I think we need to move forward with different legislation. This is good legislation: Pass it; get it over to the Senate; declare it an emergency; do this funding piece. But we need to do more. If you want to deal with these fires that are setting records for how much they consume, not only of the taxpayers' purse, but of our Nation's resource, habitat, watershed, look at the greenhouse gases, the smoke, the pollutants in the atmosphere, then we have to be able to give our forest managers
the tools that they've proven can work in a collaborative way around communities and extend those out into the great reserves, the forests that are Condition Class 2 and 3.
And so I hope we can build a bipartisan coalition to do that. And I hope the chairman of the Resources Committee will help us on that. Because if we don't, then the change that's occurring in our climate with temperature will only cause these forests to grow more drought-ridden, more disease-ridden, more bug-infested, more likely to burn up in fire. And I'll tell you what, when you go back to this picture, Judge Grasty's grandkids, this is what's left behind. This is not snow, this is ashen,
destroyed ground. These are the trees which, by the way, may never get hard.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. So we can do better. We can be better stewards of our Nation's forest. We owe it, as our legacy to the future, to be good stewards today. But we can't do it with the laws that are in place that impede the work. I mean, we owe it. I can't be more passionate about this. And I've worked with many of you in a bipartisan way to pass the Healthy Forest Restoration Act and the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act, which the Senate failed to take up last Congress. We've got
to do better than we're doing now.
This is a good little step forward in terms of managing the money so that the forest workers can do their work. We need to do more.
Mr. RAHALL. Mr. Speaker, I'm very happy to yield 2 minutes to a very valued member of our Committee on Natural Resources, the gentlelady from California (Mrs. Capps), and commend her for her assistance in developing this legislation as well.
Mrs. CAPPS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the FLAME Act. I thank Chairman Rahall for yielding me time and for bringing this important legislation to the floor.
This bill comes at such a critical time. Our Nation is now and will continue to face longer and more intense fire seasons due to global warming and drought.
The cost of fighting fires has grown enormously in recent years, and projections indicate that this trend will only increase, especially in populated wildland urban interface areas.
The Forest Service has spent over $1 billion per year on 5 of the last 7 years to extinguish fires. And wildland fire management activities are estimated to consume close to half of the Forest Service's budget this year. These escalating costs are having a significant impact on the Forest Service. For example, the Forest Service is forced to pull funds from other programs, leaving fewer funds available for camp ground maintenance and forest restoration.
The emergency fund created by the FLAME Act will reduce the need to deplete important Forest Service programs and will provide more reliable funding than uncertain year-to-year supplementals. Even more important, the FLAME Act will ensure the Forest Service has regular funding available for day-to-day fire management. This includes such important prevention steps, like FIREWISE Communities, hazardous fuels treatment, and restoration work.
It's absolutely essential that our efforts to fight today's fires don't hurt our efforts to prevent tomorrow's fires. This bill will ensure this is the case.
Mr. Speaker, the Zaca Fire that burned 240,000 acres in my congressional district last year cost the Forest Service $120 million. That's one fire alone. With more than 1,700 fires in California this year already and the fire season is not even half over, it's pretty clear we're going to have to create an emergency Federal fund dedicated solely to devastating wildland fires.
This idea is long overdue, and this legislation deserves to be approved by the House. So I urge all of my colleagues to address the long-term wildfire suppression funding situation by supporting the FLAME Act.
Ms. FOXX. Mr. Speaker, these fires are extremely dangerous, and our heart goes out to all those people in California who are suffering from these fires and all over the country.
In my area, we rely on volunteer firefighters who are dedicated and whose service I cherish. However, we're putting these dedicated servants who are volunteers all over this country at a terrible disadvantage with gas costs at $4.11 a gallon; 75 percent higher since the Democrats took control of Congress.
Now, let me say that again. Many Americans do not realize that the Democrats are in control of Congress. We are not being allowed to vote on increasing the supply of gasoline by the Democrats.
Now, what is the Democratic strategy for increasing supply of gasoline, which is what we have to do to bring down the price? Let me quote from an article in yesterday's Hill newspaper an aide to Speaker Pelosi.
``Right now our strategy on gas prices is `Drive small cars and wait for the wind.' '' Now, that reminds me of the episode which many people will remember from their history books, when the people of France were starving, people went to the Queen and said that the people need bread, they're begging for bread. She said, ``Let them eat cake.'' Again, the strategy of the Democrats is ``Right now our strategy on gas prices is `Drive small cars and wait for the wind.' ''
Folks, that's not what we want in terms of leadership. We need leadership on this issue. We need action to bring down the price of gasoline. And what will bring down the price of gasoline is American-made energy. We are not being allowed to produce American-made energy that we can produce to bring down the price of gasoline.
On the last bill, the Democrats talked about the fact that our unemployment rate is up. We had 54 straight months of job growth in this country until January of this year when gas prices really started to go up. The price of gas is affecting everything in this country. Again, it's Democratic leadership that has put us in this position, not Republican leadership.
I met today with people from the Turkey Federation. They're concerned about the price of feed. It's driving up the cost of food. Why? Because we're giving such great subsidies to ethanol; so corn is being used to produce ethanol, not going into feed for our animals. We know that's happening all over the place.
Why is it that Congress has a 9 percent approval rating right now? It's because, as the Wall Street Journal said, this is the most do-nothing Congress in 20 years.
We have to respond to the American people. The American people have to know that the Democrats are in charge and they are not responding. We can bring down the price of oil, we can help volunteer firefighters, we can bring [Page: H6290]
down the cost of food by providing American-made energy, and it's time that we started doing that.
Democrats think you can defy the law of supply and demand. We cannot do that. If we increase supply, we will be able to bring down the price of gasoline, and that's what we have to do.
Mr. RAHALL. Mr. Speaker, in response to the last speaker, this gentleman certainly joins with her in commending our firefighters, especially those who have volunteered across our Nation to fight these fires where they occur. Our firefighters, as they showed us on 9/11, are certainly on the forefront of our Nation's defense and our first responders in this country.
In regard to the price of gas, though, let me remind the gentlewoman that when President George Bush took office, the price of gas, according to his own Energy Information Agency, was $1.47. The last time I left West Virginia yesterday morning, it was $4.14 a gallon.
Mr. Speaker, I am very honored to yield now such time as she may consume to the distinguished Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ms. Pelosi.