Western governors ask Biden for aid on wildfires
Governors of Western states facing severe fires called for federal action on climate change and forest management on a call with President Biden and Vice President Harris Friday.
Biden began by asking the governors what help the White House could provide at the state level that they were not already receiving. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) said the fires illustrate the need for more effective forest management in the affected areas.
“I can take you 10 miles west of the state capitol in Helena and show you a forest where 90 percent of the trees are standing dead,” Gianforte said, adding that such circumstances create a “tinder box” in those areas.
Biden agreed, comparing ignitions in poorly-managed forests to “dropping a match in a pool of fuel” and highlighted the additional forest management and Bureau of Land Management funds in the bipartisan infrastructure package backed by the White House.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), meanwhile, said his state has “a huge need for additional aerial assets” to fight wildfires, and described an “emerging concern about fuel supply” for those assets.
Inslee also touted the infrastructure measures as essential to combating wildfires, saying, “The fact of the matter is there is nothing in human intervention against these fires if climate change continues to ravage our forests.”
“There is only one way to save these forests from the ravages of climate,” he added. “We won’t recognize these forests as forests anymore unless we realize your vision.”
Biden also invoked the Civilian Climate Corps included in the infrastructure bill, saying, “The truth is it’s not fundamentally different in the help it could provide than the civilian corps put together in the Depression.”
The president encouraged the assembled governors to review the proposed corps “and see if you think, as my mother would say, my eyes are bigger than my stomach.”
California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) spoke in favor of the proposed corps, saying his state is “proving your theory” about the effectiveness of such a program.
Experts have warned an increase in extreme heat, combined with drier conditions caused by reduced snowpack, will only worsen wildfire seasons. There are currently 20 large fires burning in Montana, nine in Washington and five in California, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.