WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senate Western Caucus Chair Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) along with Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jim Risch (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023. This legislation protects firefighters, communities and property in Wyoming and throughout the west from the devastating impacts of wildfires by creating a Clean Water Act exemption for federal, state, local and tribal firefighting agencies to use fire retardant on fires.
“Radical environmental activists have no idea how dangerous it would be to take away the ability to use fire retardant during a wildfire,” said Sen. Lummis. “Wildland firefighters in Wyoming and throughout the west need to be able to use every tool available to them in order to control wildfires, which is why I’m introducing the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023 to protect life, public lands and property from fires.”
“Wildfires can raze entire communities, destroying livelihoods, displacing families and taking lives,” said Sen. Crapo. “Instead of piling on more bureaucratic red tape, we should empower federal and local authorities to take action whenever wildfires threaten life and property. These fires must be taken seriously and not used as a political cudgel by environmental activists.”
“Fire retardant is an irreplaceable tool to fight wildfires, and it is critical this resource is available to federal, state, local, and tribal firefighting agencies,” said Sen. Risch. “We must pass the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023 to ensure we are equipped to protect homes, businesses, and most importantly, people, this fire season.”
“In recent years, Montana has suffered catastrophic wildfire seasons. We must do everything we can to cut bureaucratic red tape and put an end to frivolous litigation that’s preventing our brave firefighters from using all means necessary to protect our Montana families and communities from these deadly flames,” said Sen. Daines.
“Wildfires burn millions of acres in Alaska every year—sometimes as much or more than the combined acreage burned in the rest of the country,” said Sen. Sullivan. “Our courageous firefighters need every tool at their disposal to prevent out-of-control burns, save lives, and protect homes and critical infrastructure. I’m glad to join my colleagues in introducing legislation to remove red tape interfering with one of the most essential tools firefighters have to combat wildfires and keep Alaskans and Americans safe.”
“Fire retardant is an essential tool in wildland firefighting, especially in the West. Not only is it absurd to try to take away that tool, it’s flat out dangerous. If these radical environmentalists are scared that a little bit of fire retardant could get into our rivers while they’re fighting off a thousand acre fire, just wait until all the forests burn down, the land is covered in soot, and pollution is choking civilians up to hundreds of miles away,” said Congressman LaMalfa.
Currently, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies are operating under the assumption that a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is not required for the use of fire retardant because the regulations specifically state that fire control is a “non-point source silvicultural activity” and communications from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dating back to 1993 indicated a permit is not required. Unfortunately, radical environmental groups are suing the Forest Service under the Clean Water Act to require an NPDES permit to use fire retardant and have requested an injunction on the use of fire retardant until the Forest Service receives this permit, which could take years.
If the injunction is granted and fire retardant is not available for use in 2023, firefighters and individuals living in forested areas would be in greater danger and billions of dollars of infrastructure would be at risk.
Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives alongside Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), John Duarte (R-CA), Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Austin Scott (R-GA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Amata Radewagen (R-AS), Troy Nehls (R-TX), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Young Kim (R-CA), Ryan Zinke (R-MT), John Garamendi (D-CA), Blake Moore (R-UT), Burgess Owens (R-UT), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Pete Stauber (R-MN), Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Mary Miller (R-IL).
This legislation is supported by the United Aerial Firefighters Association.
“UAFA notes with increasing concern the potential for a federal court to impose a restraining order against the use of aerially applied fire retardant as early as this coming fire season. Fire retardant is a proven, essential tool in assisting wildland firefighters in their fight to contain, control and defeat wildfire. As this lawsuit continues, with the potential to run into its second year, UAFA strongly supports Senator Lummis’ legislation, the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023, which allows the federal, states, and tribal governments to continue the use of aerially applied fire retardants,” said United Aerial Firefighters Association President John Gould.
Click here to read the full bill text.