Fighting Fire with Science – Senator Martin Heinrich (New Mexico) Speaks Out
We are now living in an era of severe drought, extreme wildfires, and climate disruption. That’s why I fought so hard to secure policies in the Farm Bill to improve the management of watersheds in our national forests and reduce the risks of costly catastrophic wildfires. I wanted to share a few of these major conservation wins in the Farm Bill, which we just passed in the Senate.
I authored a provision in the Farm Bill to establish a Water Source Protection Program within the U.S. Forest Service. This program would build on partnerships between cities, businesses, water utilities, farmers and ranchers, and the Forest Service-like the Santa Fe Water Fund and Rio Grande Water Fund-to support forest health projects on lands that provide water resources for downstream users.
I also fought to expand the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, which allows local community collaborative groups to take on large, landscape-scale forest and watershed restoration projects. In New Mexico, the Southwest Jemez Mountains Collaborative and the Zuni Mountains Collaborative are two examples of this successful program. These local efforts are critical to restoring the health of forests and watersheds that are integral to life in New Mexico, ensuring our communities have clean drinking water, and bolstering our agriculture industry. Now these partnerships can be extended and expanded.
These victories come on top of a much-needed fix to the U.S. government’s antiquated funding process for wildfire suppression that I helped pass earlier this year. Our new policy pays for catastrophic fires in the same way we pay for other natural disasters, while protecting funds for stewardship contracts, watershed restoration projects, and other critical forest health programs. We no longer have to choose between fighting fires and preventing them – going forward, we can and must do both.
While the President refuses to acknowledge accepted science on climate change or take major challenges in forest policy seriously, I remain focused on using my role in the Senate to deliver common-sense solutions to the challenges we face. I will keep fighting for us to utilize the best available science and deliver resources to our communities to promote long-term sustainable use of New Mexico’s land and water.