According to federal data and a Headwaters Economics study, wildfires in the United States destroyed more than 10 million acres of land and nearly 18,000 structures including homes.
Wildfires continue to blaze across the U.S. West, just like last year. The ultimate extent of the damage is yet to be determined. According to the Associated Press, Oregon’s Bootleg fire in its south is causing massive destruction. It is the most destructive fire that has ever erupted in the state. It has destroyed a half-million acres of land, twice the size Rhode Island.
California is constantly ravaged by wildfires that are worse than ever. Four million acres–more land than the state of Connecticut–burned last year, forcing families across the U.S. to breathe polluted air,” wrote Democratic Rep. Katie Porter on Twitter Thursday. Climate change is a crisis. We must act.
The federal government spends around $2 billion to 3 billion annually on wildfires.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is paying her first visit Friday to the new Colorado headquarters of her department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) after its relocation from the nation’s capital by the Trump administration sparked criticism that the move was intended to gut the agency that oversees vast tracts of public lands in the West.
After the 2019 move from Grand Junction, Co., and four years without a confirmed director, the BLM headquarters is in staffing chaos. Interior planned to relocate more than 320 jobs at its headquarters to Grand Junction. Officials from Interior recently confirmed that only three employees were actually relocated.
Haaland is currently reviewing whether the move should be allowed to stand. The move was deemed a reorganization which brought top agency officials closer the almost quarter-billion acres it manages. It was criticized by environmentalists as it weakens the agency that manages livestock grazing, recreation, and fossil fuel extraction. As a member of Congress, Haaland opposed the move.
Haaland planned to address federal government’s wildfire preparedness in Grand Junction.
Wildfires are more difficult to combat due to extreme dryness and recent heat waves linked to climate change. The West has become warmer and dryer over the past 30 years due to climate change. Wildfires will be more common and more destructive in the future.
Officials from the United States have stated that they will do everything possible to stop wildfires and prevent them from causing conflagrations like the Bootleg Fire. Administration officials also want to increase the area where controlled burns, tree thinning and other measures can be used to reduce flammable materials.
The administration seeks a nearly 40% increase to $1.7 billion in additional funds to manage fire dangers by controlling thinning and controlled burns.
Democratic governor. Democratic Gov. Democratic U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, who invited Haaland to visit Grand Junction, has said the headquarters relocation was “done in haste” and let down the city, which hoped for an economic boost.
Nearly 10,000 people work for the bureau, with most of them working in West-based field offices.
Tracy Stone-Manning was the nominee of President Joe Biden to head the BLM. She received no Republican support during Thursday’s vote by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Biden’s selection was criticized by the GOP for alleged connections to an environmental sabotage investigation in 1989.
Stone-Manning must face the full Senate to be confirmed as director. To block Stone-Manning’s confirmation in an evenly divided Senate, it would require at least one Democratic lawmaker and every Senate Republican. After Thursday’s vote, Haaland, Stone-Manning’s boss, reiterated her support for the nominee.