Senator Romney announces new Wildfire legislation

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) was in Millcreek, to say he will introduce new legislation to establish a commission to conduct a national review of the wildfire policy and make recommendations to Congress.

Senator Romney was joined by Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini, and Jason Curry of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, who spoke in support of the Senator’s efforts.

Courtesy: Salt Lake Helitack

According to a press release from the Senator’s office: As of October 2020, approximately 1,423 wildfires have occurred in Utah this year. Approximately 311,000 acres were burned, and over 75% of Utah’s wildfires were human-caused.

The state spent 55 million fighting fires this year.

The Senator’s announcement occurred at the entrance of Neff’s Canyon, which was the site of a recent lightning strike that caused the fire.

The release states, “Romney’s bill would require a review of the nation’s wildland firefighting strategy, accompanied by specific policy recommendations, in consultation with state and local stakeholders – including county and city level representation.”

“This year, Utah and other states in the West have faced an unprecedented level of wildland fires – due in large part to many decades of poor management of forests and a persistent lack of local input when it comes to best management practices,” said Senator Romney“When it comes to managing fires, lands, and disasters, Washington bureaucrats are not the experts. My proposal will bring together officials from all levels of government – including county and city representation – and outside experts to improve strategies to prevent future wildfires from becoming catastrophic disasters in Utah and across the West.”

Cal Fire air tankers help stop the spread of a brush fire in Larkfield Calif, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (Kent Porter/The Press Democrat via AP)

“We’re so excited for [Senator Romney’s] efforts now as Senator, representing the great state of Utah, at a national level the impact that he is having in helping to make a difference in wildfire mitigation,” Lieutenant Governor Cox said. “If you care about air quality, if you care about the environment at all, you should care about these efforts to mitigate the tremendous fires that are happening out there. That means that we have to get more involved in taking measures to keep our forests healthy, to allow for responsible grazing that reduces the fire load, and to make sure that we are removing the deadwood and other things that lead to these catastrophic wildfires.”

The Traverse Fire burns behind homes in Lehi, Utah, Sunday, June 28, 2020. Officials say fireworks caused the wildfire and forced evacuations early Sunday morning. (Justin Reeves via AP)

“This area is wilderness, and therefore it is not subject to some of the forestry management practices which might mitigate the risks of wildfires. Thus, the residents of homes in this neighborhood must take even more care to establish a defensible space to protect their lives and their property. These circumstances all point to the need to re-examine and evaluate how to best control wildland fire risk in the age of a warming climate. As we have witnessed wildland fires rage across the west in the last few years, and particularly this summer, it’s apparent that we need to study and re-calibrate our response,” said Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini. “It’s time to take a look and ensure that we are following best practices, and it’s time to ensure that we have the best possible coordination between local, state, and federal resources to address this increasing problem. It’s time to review and ensure that our firefighters have the best tools and resources to do their jobs—in equipment, apparatus, air resources, and monitoring capabilities.”

“All of the wildfire entities here in Utah this year spent more than $50 million suppressing these fires. It’s a huge cost to the taxpayer. It’s a burden that we can’t afford to sustain as it continues to rise like that. So, one of the things, or actually the key thing that brings us the most success in instances like the Neffs Fire is the interagency cooperation. And here in Utah, we’re very proud of the relationships that we share between the state of Utah, forest service, BLM, and all of the other wildfire entities, including our local fire departments like UFA and others. So as we get success from those partnerships, we realize that there are more partners that could be at the table. We’re very grateful to the Governor’s office for their leadership and their support. We’re grateful for Senator Romney and his leadership and his support. And we’re anxious to see what can be done in bringing more stakeholders together, more people to that table, to address the major problem,” said Jason Curry of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

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