Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules hearing on wildfires

The Colville Tribes of Washington suffered heavy damage from the North Star Fire last fall. Photo from Facebook

The ever-busy Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has scheduled its first hearing for the month of June.

The committee will hold an oversight hearing on wildfire response and prevention on June 8. It's familiar ground -- lawmakers took up the issue back in May 2014.

"Nowhere are the effects of wildfire more apparent and the benefit of working ahead of time to reduce the threat of fires more obvious than on tribal forests," Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) said at the time. "Tribal communities rely on their forests for economic development, recreation and cultural activities. Each year, tribal habitat is lost for decades, sometimes forever."

Tribes have long complained that they are being ignored when it comes to federal agency forst management plans. Lawmakers from both parties also say tribes are better equipped to manage the situation at the local level.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Oversight Hearing on "Wildfires and Forest Management: Prevention is Preservation" May 14, 2014

"In 2011, these new forest management techniques paid off during the 535,000 acre Wallow fire where less than three percent of the burn occurred on the Fort Apache Reservation," said Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) in reference to the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 and the Tribal Forests Protection Act of 2004, which Congress passed in the wake of deadly fires in and around Indian Country.

"In areas where the Wallow fire did burn on the reservation, the tree death rate reached only 10 percent and the surrounding non-Indian lands, reached 50 percent," McCain added.

The upcoming hearing will take place in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. A witness list hasn't been posted online.

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice:
Oversight Hearing on "Improving Interagency Forest Management to Strengthen Tribal Capabilities for Responding to and Preventing Wildfires." (June 8, 2016)

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