Who’s An Expert to Whom?: Congressional Wildfire Theater (Hearing) on Thursday

Many thanks to Bill Gabbert of Wildfire Today for this one:

“Investing to increase the capacity of the federal workforce to plan for and respond to wildfire:

Committee hearing April 29 fire wildfire

Riva Duncan, now retired from the Fire Staff Officer position on the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon, is scheduled to testify before Congress Thursday April 29.

The House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, led by Chair Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), will host an oversight hearing titled Wildfire in a Warming World: Opportunities to Improve Community Collaboration, Climate Resilience, and Workforce Capacity.

The Subcommittee describes one of the topics of the hearing:

Congress and the Biden administration have an opportunity to better incorporate climate change into federal land and wildfire policies by protecting naturally resilient landscapes, prioritizing funding for community collaboration and protection, and investing to increase the capacity of the federal workforce to plan for and respond to wildfire.

Ms. Duncan is now the Executive Secretary of Grassroots Wildland Firefighters.

Other expected witnesses:

  • Courtney Schultz, Associate Professor of Forest & Natural Resource Policy, Director of the Public Lands Policy Group at CSU, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State University.
  • Beverly Law, Professor Emeritus, Global Change Biology & Terrestrial Systems Science, Oregon State University
  • Minority witness to be announced


1 p.m. EDT, Thursday April 29

Written testimony:

Written testimony from the witnesses will be posted at the Committee’s website shortly before the hearing begins. Ms. Duncan’s is 13 pages long.

How to watch live:

You can watch it right here. When the hearing begins, click on the Play button on the YouTube screen below.

After the hearing is over, it should be possible to replay it above, or on YouTube.


There are many people we could consider experts on the topic of wildfire under climate change and what to do on workforce issues. I like that Neguse picked Schultz who is a social scientist; it would be interesting if more social scientists were included in, say, other hearings on science issues, say climate, for example, IMHO.  Of course, they are both from Colorado, so does that have anything to do with it? Also two Oregonians.  Which seems a bit odd considering all the work they do on this, and all the experts,  in California.  And of course,  there is nothing like a retired Fed to be an expert.

Of these, Law seems the outlier to me based on her research portfolio.

This is interesting to me from a political science perspective- since I’ve always found the machinations of politics difficult to understand (yes, even when I worked on Capitol Hill). For one thing, the USDA has a comment period open until Friday on climate-smart forestry and agriculture which includes dealing with wildfire. So..is this to help with that? Are they separate efforts? Are they coordinating between legislative and executive branches? As it says, “Congress and the Biden administration have an opportunity to better incorporate climate change into federal land and wildfire policies.”

Also who would you pick, if you were the minority, to round out the panel, and why? It might already be decided, but I’m interested in what you all think and why.

7 thoughts on “Who’s An Expert to Whom?: Congressional Wildfire Theater (Hearing) on Thursday”

  1. I would pick someone from the timber industry that would comment on the destruction of our federal forests and lost of resources from fire. I wouldn’t have anybody from the Umpqua National Forest. They have spent billions with their “full suppression” fire fighting tactics, (which appeared to be, spend as much money as you can and burn as much ground as you can) that have resulted in large portions of the forest being burnt.
    All the current catch phrases make me suspect, collaboration, resiliency, capacity.

  2. I agree with Bob Sproul on this. The Umpqua National Forest has been the host of a large number of catastrophic-scale wildfires during the past 30 years. “How to turn a safe and beautiful working forest into fiery infernos and ugly, dangerous, snag-filled landscapes through federal regulations and the environmental law industry: a case study.”

    I went to school with Bev Law at OSU. She was the major professor for Dan Donato when he constructed his grad-school report on the Biscuit Fire. Those not familiar with this work need to know that it was simplistic, highly controversial, and definitely against salvage logging. During the remainder of her career she has used satellite data to determine carbon dioxide levels somehow related to Global Warming. A very nice person, but totally inexperienced in the fields of either forest or fire management.

    I liked the bullet informing readers that “a minority” representative will also be testifying about something somehow related to this hearing. For a “minority” I would select an experienced forest manager.

  3. I’m not sure if I would recommend watching the whole thing, as some Congressmen remain entrenched in their political views. The idea that “active forest management has been halted for the last 20 to 30 years’ is obviously wrong but, parroted by many. Ms. Duncan’s testimony seemed the most ‘real’, and felt the most useful for mitigating problems. It IS worth it to see the end of McClintock’s rant, which was devoid of questions for the panel. He did have a few points, but the rest of it, pure partisan politics and misinformation. McClintock went over his time limit, and Representative Huffman chided him on that. Republicans want regulations removed. Democrats seemed open-minded and hopeful for better Federal actions.

    There was a lot of talk about firefighters, and their many job-related issues. Duncan touched on fully-funding land management activities but, there wasn’t much mention of the role of timber temporaries in wildfire mitigation. Will they get left behind when firefighters have their own Series and payscale? Will they remain restricted to working for 1039 hours per year? Will they earn a livable wage, too?

    Oh, and I almost forgot. I think it was Westerman who took a sniper shot at Dr. Law, even before she made an appearance. There were a lot of holes in some of the testimony and Congressional comment. Both sides of the aisle could have used better witnesses, who would have been less polarizing.

  4. Larry, so glad you watched this.. was there anything both sides agreed on? Was Ms. Duncan the “minority” person? What did Schultz have to say (generally)?

    • Schulz was very knowledgeable and professional. She seemed to avoid any partisanship but, she did advocate more active management, through creative financing and partnership. The minority person was Dr. Daley, a rancher/naturalist from Butte County, CA. He found a way to ignore the vast clearcutting of SPI, while blaming ‘analysis paralysis’ in the Forest Service. He tried to be objective but, he seemed to buy into false Republican talking points. He blamed both NEPA and CEQA. It didn’t seem like Democrats were buying into Law’s carbon/climate points, but asked for more information to be sent to the committee. Republicans ignored her, except for that ‘pot shot’.

      La Malfa made a special guest appearance, as he used to chair that committee. He was so smug but, appeared to know the issues. He held the Republican Party Line.

      • One more significant thing to report is that none of the committee members asked Ms. Duncan about her own views and experiences in working so many fire jobs, in multiple places. Every question for her was about ‘those poor, poor, heroic firefighters’. I would have liked to hear her talk more about fuels, logging and land management, as well.


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