From the Missoulian here:
The vice chairwoman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes told a congressional committee Thursday that the nation would not experience the devastating wildfires it does if U.S. forests were managed the way forestland on the Flathead Indian Reservation is.
Testifying in Washington, D.C., before the House Natural Resources Committee, Carole Lankford said the rest of the country could learn much about healthy forests from her tribes.
“Had our national forests been managed similarly, this country wouldn’t be having the massive forest fires that are occurring with great frequency in recent years,” Lankford said.
“Operating understaffed and underfunded programs means that we cut corners and pay our employees less than other federal agencies pay their employees for the same work,” Lankford testified. “When we cut corners, some important job requirements fall off the table and don’t get done.”
Still, she said, CSKT has reduced fuels on an average of 7,638 acres of forestland per year for each of the past 10 years through thinning, piling, pile burning and understory burn projects.
“We were the first tribe in this country to treat 10,000 acres in one year,” Lankford told the committee. “As a result, when the Chippy Creek fire crossed state and federal lands before it reached the Flathead Reservation in 2007, we were able to get it extinguished more efficiently than other jurisdictions. Firefighters from other jurisdictions, who were helping us as we helped them, commented on how efficient the fuels-reduction program in this part of the reservation was.”
Chippy Creek was Montana’s largest wildfire of the 2007 fire season, burning almost 100,000 acres, or 155 square miles.
“You can therefore imagine how surprised (we were) when the administration came up with a new method of allocating fuels dollars,” Lankford said of the Hazardous Fuels Prioritization and Allocation System, which she added would have reduced CSKT’s fuels budget by 94 percent.
The new formula, Lankford charged, was “biased in how it could be applied and how easily the formula could be gamed.”