tv Wildfire Forest Management CSPAN June 5, 2018 10:08am-11:39am EDT
>> the number of wildfires and acres that burned in 2018 determines not only on forest conditions but on the timing of lightning strikes and human caused ignitions. nationwide people are responsible for starting 84% of wildfires and by starting so by human carelessness people are lengthening the fire season into the early spring and later fall, at times of the air when lightning does not have a major role. the eagle creek trail creek fire that raged through the columbia river gorge in oregon in 2017
started by a teener that was firecrackers, one of many examples with the 2018 fire season upon us i start with a plea to people everywhere -- please be smart about fire. we can make a difference in what this wildfireson eap looking like and it starts with being careful. it is time to execute a multipronged federal state local strategy to meet increasing challenges being presented in a cost-efficient manner. versus innovation. our committee discusses innovation on the energy side of the policy shop but we ve significant opportunities with ret d and wildfire management. held a hearing on wildfire technology. i am particularly interested in the use of unmanned aircraft systems or drones playing a eater role in wildfire management response from detecting, mapping and eve helping to contain wildfires. to operate,eaper
maintain and trained personnel on drones and also helps reduce risks for pilots, crew and firefighters. the state of alaska has been earlydopters in the use of drones. interior iusg drones across managementunctions including to monitor ongoing volcanic eruptions in a white. we can and should do -- in hawaii. we can end should do more. -- we can and should do more. hopefully this will be an area we will be able to make bipartisan progress. after that we need to look to opportunities to increase efficiency and wildfire operations at the federal level. they have long coordinated through the national interagency fire center by collaboration and a could still improve procurement, budget information technology and human capital. one program to focus on is
aviation services. i still do not understand why forest service and interior have their separate programs. overe also said over and that wildfire is not just a budget problem. it is a management problem. meaning, we must actively manage our forests. in alaska we have seen the benefits of up to investments and hazarded areas before fires start. in 2015, a large strategically placed he will break the between the refuge save homes and lives during the massive fire. in 2015, hazardous fuel reduction treatments conducted years earlier around sterling, reduced the wildfire risk to the community during another fire. in the omnibus, congress provided funding to address wildfires, we also provided new
authorities, not necessarily at the level i believe necessary but what we could characterize as a start. the agencies wanted those authorities so we expect them to put them to good use. no excuses there. end, to effectively fight fires and manage lands, you must read your hassment, bullying and retaliation. workplace misconduct cann be d, especially on the fire lines in the field. focus on the mission and be professional about it. or be ready to face consequences. with that, i would like to welcome the interim chief of the forest service, vicki ofistians and t director wild and fire at department of interior, jeff rupert. discussionard to our as we work to reduce wildfires across the country. sen. cantwell:? >> thankou madam chair.
thank you for that strong statement, i agree with you on the issue of sexual harassment and what the agency nes to do to bter manage and train people in responding to these issues. i appreciate your strong statement about drones. as wprchhis fire season, making sure those on the fire line have the best possible information is going to be critical. weather conditions, info about fire movement, all of that, i recently attended a breakfast where the secretary of act was entering into a mou.thes done remarkable work on our drone system. i do not want the department of act two waste one minute re-creating something that could be the same implementation that the department of interior has done. i hope that they will work on that.
on -- want to get started climate scientists have telling us the fire season is getting longer and hotter and now this new forecast of the pacific northwest will have a the-august fire season on side of what we have seen in the past being potentially worse. received lessst than 50% of average precipitation for may, which will likely result in the mountains becoming critically dry by late july. i were wyden and discussing this as it relates to what that means for us, anytime less precipitation, sooner, sooner,ry eironme which we have to be mindful of. nearly all the country experienced temperatures above
average last month, central washington temperatures were 10 degrees above average. because conditions are supposed to last through september, places like southeast washington will likely experience more large fires in previous years, starting in july. areas in washington and i know we have a couple fires already stard in our state, hopefully people will be working very ickly to put those out but it is just a very early reminder of how challenging the season could be. oregon, whiton, and my colleague will be here from idaho, and in idaho east of the cascade crest will likely experience more large fires than we have seen in the last year starting in august. given that we are looking at the summer, i want to make sure we are ensuring firefighters have every tool available to them to help fight fires. they need to be as safe as possible, as efficient as possible. everyone here has heard me talk
about the carlton complex, fire in washington a few years ago where 140,000 acres burned in a single day. the following year then washinon were worse. witnessed firsthand the disaster, the aftermath means for people living in these communities. our heroic men and women firefighters did everything they could to be ready and we need to do everything we can to be ready this season. fires arcoming more lethal. that chief speech christiansen gave last week at the conference,ne of the fa she mentioned struck me. since 1910, more than 1000 deaths in a while and fires but the more sobering number is more than a quarter of those, 255 haveurd the last 15 years. they are literally becoming more lethal.
when we get to questions, i will ask about our efforts on modernization. we want to make sure every tool is there, for wildland refighters, with information. we want to make sure our modernized fire shelters are developed and implemented in a wathat we know the safety and training of those wildland firefighters, have an understanding of the equipment. we had a very unfortunate death, in the 30 mile fire, in which the then deployment of shelter, wasn't really successfully deployed, and the tragic loss of life in the pacific northwest. andou deploy new shelters wildland firefighters with very few hours of training, compared to permanent firefighting forces, we want to make sure everyone is trained and adequate and also, not an over
expectation of being someplace that they should not be. we want to work with you on that . we also want to have more hasty response to wildfires. firefighters need to be able to use technologies that gim wef resources, also want to be very strategic about protecting communities in the wildland interface as soon as possible. took an, congress important step by addressing the problem. members of this committee worked very hard on an omnibus bill dedicated to wildfire. many of the people in this room worked very hard on that. this helps the forest service have adequate resources to respond to fires and do their work. we provided significant funding for firefighting for the next 10 years, to get out of the fire borrowing. i hope there is enough funding
on the non-fire programs that can benefit communities as well, especially the increase in funding that will help us do prevention and treatment in advance and prevent the loss, of the non-fire accounts of the forest service. what includ in that ckage that we think next things easier? state agencies like washington dnr are able to partner better with a four service and we hope you take advantage of that. they were called out last time dnrith the forest service, was called to the line and that is how bad the season was. we hope the good neighbor projects are implemented. we hope the vegetation management and power lines are implemented, the 20 year contracts to do thinning, and forcing on cross laminated timber will be limited and we hope the forest service will do everything it can to reduce
fuels in advance. an interesting article in this month's journal of forest three, acres burned on a wildfire in august puts more than five times as muchmoke as a controlled burn in may and june. i know this probably makes sense to people but at the same time, this is one of the dilemmas we have been fighting. i guarantee you, whether you ask people in puget sound, would you tolerate a little smoke in those months, to reduce the constant haser wide haze that been present because of fire -- i guarantee you they would say yes, let's do the prescribed burning in the months, that help us control these burns in the most significant way. we have more work to do on that. that article showed us, this is the most wise spending we could
do. we need to push through on this. i will be asking also, chief christiansen about the shift to contracts for 35% of the air tankers and water scoopers, including arrow flight in spokane, call when needed. i want to make sure you have every tool available. i want to make sure we're not going with one source of resource just because it is a larger pot of money. i would feel better sleeping at night if you have every tool available. we know the water does not put out the fire, that the larger retardant does. with this many fire starts in this dry of a season and community so stretched and when the entire upper part of northwest washington and northeast washington was on fire, basically, communities were defending tels. having that kind of air ability to help mitigate is so, so
important to these communities. we will get, that, to the air tankers, i have been long here. last year,ay that fire managers requested but did not receive an air tanker 371 times because none were available. i get that your goal is to have the most resources. i want you to have the most resources. i do not want you to have to give up one for the other. let us work together on how we figure out how to get you both and what will continue to be a challenging season. madam chair, we cannot work fast enough. the changing climate and environment is making fire more challenging for the forest service, wildland firefighters, communities. we put a down payment on but we
need so much more. thank you for having this important hearing today. >> thank you, senator cantwell. we will turn witnesses. mistresses and, -- this christiansen, welcome -- mrs. christiansen, we appreciate you being here, we ask you to keep comments to five minut so we have opportunities for questions. we have two votes scheduled at 11 but we will power through so we can all ask questions. welcome. mrs. christiansen: madam chair, members of the committee, thank you for inviting me back to testify. i would like to touch on three topics, the wildfire outlook and preparations to respond, progress to increase work to improve forest conditions and reduce fire risk, and an update on our actions to create a safe
and respectful workplace. above average wildfire activity appears to be the new normal. forecasters predict 2018 well rival last ye's historic season when the federal government spent $2.9 billion fighting fire. they predict above average significant fire potential in 11 western states at various times between now and the end of september, as senator cantwell displayed. firefighting is not solitary work. no one organization can do it alone. we rely on the cooperaon and shared resources with states, tribes, federal agencies and local partners. with our collective resoues, we maintain what we need to effectively respond. forest service has 10,000 firefighters, 900 engines and hundreds of available aircraft.
our firefighting efforts suppress 98% of all fires at 10 acres or less. we are also taking steps to better manage cost for fire response. we knothero blank ec we will make decisions to ensure we spend dollars in the right place, that will make a difference. we are evaluating and reducing cost centers to ensure we are most effective and efficient with taxpayer dollars. addition to wildfire response, our work is equally about improving forest conditions and providing use an experience and service. weh the help of congress, equipped with new tools in the fire funding fix to help us get more done. it is our time to deliver and we are making steady progress. by june 8, all regions will submit two year plans that will
demonstrate how they are going to employ the new authorities. they will include modified good neighbor agreements, use of new categorical exclusions for wildfire resilience, and optimal locations for 20 years stewardship contracts. we also look forward to submitting blueprints to reduce hazardous fuels in high risk area. we are alreadycrea sults. billion board.4 feet of timber this year while improving resiliency and health on more than 3 million acres. we have increased the number of acres we treated by 36%. timber harvest rose 13% from last year. and we are delivering it earlier in the year. at this point, we have harvested nearly 30% more timber than we did last year. our 2018 timber target is the
highest it has been in two decades. we have strengthened cooperation withanother partners to do more work. our increased work with states has resulted in 150 good neighbor agreements in 34 states. one agreement in utah resulted in 36 projects that will treat over 50,000 acres. meanwhile, we are fundamentally reforming our internal processes, and it is paying off. our streamlining, planning over the last eight months, decreasing the time to authorize projects. this has reduced cost in just eight months by $30 million. we are updating technology to expedite timber sales, and shovel ready work has increased to build on momentum for 2019. there is much more work to do.
we are off to a productive start. finally, our mission success does depend highly on a skilled, motivated workforce. we will continue to act with urgency to and harassment and retaliation in the forest service. employees over 30,000 will take part in a full-day session called, stand up for each other. employees will receive a new code of conduct and mandatory anti-harassment training with broad new policy. you have my personal commitment to do what ever it takes to bring about a permanent culture change in the forest service. this level of commitment goes for all work we do. we will ensure your investment makes a difference to americans who deserve healthy, productive forests and a government that works for them. membersu madam chair,
of the committee, i am happy to answer questions. >> thank you. mr. ripper, welcome to the committee. chairman,rning, members of the committee, thank u for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss 2018 outlook in department of interior's fire management program. as we have heard, 2018 is shaping up to be a challenging year. the cumulative impacts of drought, invasive species and a steady accumulation of vegetation are creating landscapes more susceptible to large devastating costly wildfires. so far this year we have seen large fires in the south, midwest, southwest. by all indication, we can expect the fire season in the west to be comparable to recent years, as the outbreak of major wildfires over the weekend in new mexico and colorado demonstrate. together with our partners we continue to mobilize department
personnel, to deploy engines, single engine air tankers and other firefighting assets in support of a fully interoperable firefighting effort. as secretary zinke he and secretary perdu recently reaffirmed to all wildland fire leadership in both departments, the protection of fireghters and public safety is the top priority for every wildland fire activity and management decision . effective wildfire response is also built on trust. on teamwork. on collaboration among firefighters and their partners. a workplace that is free from harassment, where all members of the firefighting cty he a strong trust relationship with colleagues, is critical to achieving a safe and effective response. the department of interior's recently implemented
comprehensive anti-harassment policy takes meaningful steps to address harassment by stepping up training and establishing a clearly defined complnt and resolution process so all employees, including tn the fire can foc o mission. to reduce the threat of ldfires, it is critical we take a more active approach to management of vegetation, on forests and rangeland. to all personnel, secretary exemplified the importance of management to reduce hazards. this policy isf the integration of vegetation management in all resource management planning, as a way to reduce fuels and improve forest lives, protect people's and communities and prevent catastrophic wildfires. vegetation management, either
collaboratively with partners or done directly with euros on department managed land -- with bureaus on department managed land is the most effective way to reduce risk. areled with technology, we drones, aed to use perfect example of technology and leverage to fight wildfires in safer, more efficient ways. last year the department conducted more than 700 uaf missions and we are on track to surpass that this year. is makingility of uaf a big difference in the way we are fighting wildfires. they provide real-time data and information, used to improve surveillance and reconnaissance, by assisting firefighters with detecting hotspots, improving
mapping and increasing the effectiveness of monitoring. we are also exploring a number of new technologies including applications and alert systems improving firefighter safety in departnt of fense. i would like to point out the 'spartment is widely using uaf to support natural resource management and for search and rescue missions. week, the u.s.st geological survey carried out a search and rescue mission in hawaii at mount kilauea. individual an cornered by a lava flow. s wasemote pilot using uaf' able to safely navigate the individual to a search crew that ultimately lead that person out of harms way we look forward to working collaboratively with theners throughout community to continue to build
on these and other efforts to support the safety of firefighters and the public, and hands capabilities and strengthen relationships with our partners. thank you for the sustained support of this committee for the entire wildland fire community and thank you for the portunity to discuss the program. i'm happy to answer questions. >> thank you, mr. rupert. thank you both. let me begin with the questions. i appreciate both of you have addressed the issue of workforce misconduct, harassment. what you are doing to bring about the very necessary changes to rid the agencies of sexual harassment, in all forms of workplace misconduct. mentionedtiansen, you you have a code of conduct that has been introduced, mandatory training.
mr. ruppert, you have indicated you have a new anti-harassment policy. that thisnce those, training includes those on the fire line. is thehristiansen, outrage here for the training -- the outreach here for the training you referenced, does this also include those within the firefighting ranks, people within administrative offices? who are recovering? what is the -- who are we covering and what is the extent of these policies? mrs. christiansen: thank you, senator. it is for everyone of our permanent and seasonal employees. that is why we waited until the second week of june, the majority of seasonals are on board now.
we are shutting down business for one day, rolling each week in different units, one day, to focus on this training and the importance of breaking the and what it is really going to take to shift the culture sustainably. we started with listen and learn sessions across the organization. that did not include as many of our seasonals. we needed to demonstrate as leaders what was really being felt in the workforce. that fueled the dign for the stand up for each other, next week. 18 months ago we passed a very broad anti-harassment policy. we have been working on this agency specific training with real agency examples, real employees.
we have recorded our own training and there will be discussions in every workgroup across our organization. administrative stafield staff, fire staff, headquarter and each work unit will identify what they need to make commitments to each other to improve the work environment. enhancedtarted with reporting center, we opened that in the fall of 2017, so that the fear of retaliation -- we are trying to minimize the fear oretaliation. we want to hear if anyone has any concerns. >> what action then is taken if it is reported and this is a situation in the field -- you have an active fire on the way, people are working -- how do you enforce this?
it is nice to say we have a one-day training session and then you go out for the season but it is not like you are reporting to somebody in an office back here. this has been one of the very significant concerns, -- out in the field, it is a different environment, that there is more accepted. s. christiansen: you are absolutely right. that is about getting what is under our culture. being very clear about what is not accepted,nging those behaviors and then there are stctural things that will allow reporting in different ways. even for out in the field, if 1-800is cell service, our number will pick up, we have timelines, action must be taken
within 24 hours to look into an investigation and to evaluate the situation and to take corrective action. mr. ruppert, on doi side, do you have a similar process for recording and required action? mr. rupert: the policy recently put in place in doi sets very rigid expectations for managers and timelines to respond to complaints. there is a tremendous focus on ensuring that process that really explores and understands and provides inquiry into investigation is rigid. expectations go along with it, the follow-through -- to the point of in the field, especially in these areas,
incidents where we have very diverse organizations contributing, as both of our departments ha tao puin much more rigid expects inappropriateors, behavior will be treated with -- we aren't dissipating that will generate -- we are antating that will generate more interaction when these things occur and we have had dialogue at senior management level, not only between interior and ag but also with partners across the entire community, states, local organizations, tribes, in those interagency settings, to ensure, you know, these incidents occurring, whether this occurs, where we have this real diverse
community working together that we do not lose track of those complaints and that we are following those back to the home organization to essentially people are being held responsible for behavior. perspective,ight we will be back to you on this to make sure that this is more than a one-day training, that this really is about changing a toture that has been allowed take over our agencies. it has been an extraordinarily black mark. we need to correct that, you know that. we want to keep moning that. senator cantwell? >> chief grinches and and mr. rupert, we were all together at the department of ag to discuss this mou, with the forest
service and i saw that last week the department of interior awarded four contracts to companies that operate vehicles for wildfire. i'm proud to say one of those was from southwest washington and northeast oregon, a company that spans the columbia and is on both sides, literally. we are so proud of that technology, most importantly we are proudt intes in aggressive about using this tool on wildland fires, that we want to make sure there is no barriers between forest service and interior working together to implement this. this is so critical for information about fire size, starts and safety and security about firefighters. is there anything holding us up from being very aggrsive about this deployment during this fire season? do you have to do anything else to mak sure these tools are
used across agencies or implemented? mrs. christiansen: thank you for that qn. this is and to say, example of, we are really coordinating together. the forest service is clearly looking to be early adopters in innovation doi has stepped out on and we applaud that. instead of us spending the dollars and time to do innovation and testing they have done, we are absolutely committed, drafting on them, if i might say, with our policies, procedures to make sure that we so thateroperability, we don't have policies and procedures that are different. the office of aviation services at doi has been extremely helpful, in our policies and procedures.
they have trained the trainer for our staff and we can access their call in needed contracts at any time as well as state's and others. we are not ashamed to say we applaud department of interior colleagues and we also see a innovation,use of and safety aspects of using uas's and look forward to when they can have additional capacity beyond surveillance. else?thing mr. rupert: thank you vicki. i would say the easy answer to the question is yes. call when needed, u.s. contract is available to the forest service and is being administered as a national asset the way we administer other
assets. it is available across the community. >> i assure you, we will need them. thank you. on call when needed, to the air tanker issue. i'm concerned we are shipping 35% of current contract to call when needed. we had a chance to talk about this before, to christiansen, eded contracts are morll when expensive per day, but to get them you will have to call them every day and say you are on call. what i am trying to understand is how we are going to supplant that for the panoply of resources you could have. i'm trying to unrstand -- is this about going deep where the resource is from a budgeting perspective or you trulyelieve the call when needed as relates to services are the most cost-effective way for taxpayers?
mrs. christiansen: that is a really good question. as i said earlier, we will monitor closely that balance between the upfront expenditures we use for exclusive use and how much we actually need them versus, yes, more expensive but we pay for them when we use them, call when needed. science and the science part is informed looking backwards and we have to look forward. to be honest with you senator, we would like to rebalance in the coming years. we think we need to have a little bit more balance between exclusive use and call when needed. we were in transition this year, quite frankly from getting the
legacies, that contract is done and this is a transition year. >> i so appreciate you saying that. want you to have every single tool you need. i want you to have air tankers. i know you had one acquired from the department of defense, not sure if you're going to use it. i want you to have water scoopers, large retardants, every single asset. given what you just said i hope you will work with us to figure out how to make this not a transitial season but a season where you have everyool at your disposal. that is what people in the west wants us to be doing. they want us to be giving them every tool possible to fight this fire season. thank you. mrs. christiansen: thank you. >> sen. cantwell: q. . >> thank you for being with us today. interagency fire
center outlook for the summer of 2018, largely contained positive news for wyoming. we all know how quickly on the ground conditions can change. across wyoming we have had above average snowpack and spring runoff, labeled as below normal fire potential, higher precipitation can meet rapid grass growth, dry and by august we have trouble. talking to our wyoming state forrester, he has a rule of sixes. he says about every six year, 2018 is the sixth year. wyoming will see fire. questions remain about forest health, improving coordination among partners and how we can best do that. a lot of it comes down to millions of acres of the system across the west affected by beetles. we are no stranger to die off's. standing dead trees posed significant threats.
you both identified the need to both agencies have tools to take preventative action including those provided in the recent omnibus. in places like wyoming where lower intensity fire season is expected but it may happen, your have beendo they flexibility you need to take advantage of certain years and adapt fuels, treatments as the year goes on in real-time to increase preventative measures to get ahead of the curve in terms of this standing fuel? senator,stiansen: thank you for that really good question. i don't mean to burst your bubb the white on the map tha t sen.cantwell: up does not meas below normal. that means it is normal conditions. we will still see fires. you do not have as much read in wyoming. -- red in wyoming.
we have to use every tool to treat these hazards. mechanical tatment but also using fire when we are in control of it because it will help reduce fuel loads in many ecosysmsndometimes they need both. have more favorable conditions and we need to take it manage of those operating windows on fire severity and smoke management. very good comments by senator cantwell in her opening statement, we are working with the public on how we take our smoke on terms none of us care for versus terms that will improve conditions. we had the two our call with leadership across the country about how we deploy resources, not only for fires, wildfire response but for hazardous fuel and other important treatments. we are on that and states are a
critical part of that discussion as well. >> thank you. interior, ther efficiencies for exampn the ombulargely were focused on forest authorities. we are largely still operating in the framework we have operated in in in terrier in terms of planning projects -- in interior in terms of planning projects and putting them on the ground. we are very much focused on streamlining those existing framework and progress and we are making good headway. there is anrojects, aspect of projects needing to have that planning to help drive them. we still very much doing that. by the same token, conditions on the ground in addition to values at risk, their exposure,
potential exposure to wildfires, weather conditions, having the right conditions to get in there and do proactive vegetation management is very much part of the equation, year-to-year and season to season. >> the black hills national forest formed a number of years ago and advisory board to provide advice to the forest supervisor and various stakeholders. the board's experiencing a number of vacancies and that has to be approved by the secretary so it takes time. without approval pending nominations, march, april and may meetings had to be canceled because there are not enough members. the board is planning to meet again in june but again, with this many vacancies, that meeting will have to be canceled. any update on the situation in nominations? we clearlyiansen: hear the concern and we are , to gethis a priority
tionthe wiin and havehe vetting done and working closely with the secretary's office. he is also committed. being a good neighbor is having everyone at the table to have a voice and how land is managed. it is a priority. >> thank you very much. >> senator wyden. >> thank you madam chair and senator cantwell for your leadership, we have fire borrowing language on the book. that will be helpful for the long-term. forward to getting the plant at the end of june on how you will deal with the backlog on hazardous fuel reduction, that was talked about here in this committee and i very much appreciated the fact that you have been in discussions with us about how you will be attacking that and i look forward to that as well. the country very much wants to know what the game plan is for
reducing hazardous fuel. for the country, sometimes it feels like all of us individual senators are running weather bureaus because our citizens are so concerned. for the country, may is the ominous month for fire season. that really traditionally gives you a sense of where things are. like many of my colleagues, it looks like we will have real challenges in oregon this summer. by the wayour friend senator heinrich is exhibit a for this proposition. the reason he is not with us -- he is in new mexico where he is dealing with fire. this is not an abstract theory. let me if i might talk to you about this air tanker issue. in my state, as is the case in many places, they felt they didn't have enough tankers last summer.
so, i think a lot of people are going to listen to this and say gamell, they are playing a in d.c., this kind of tanker, that kind of tanker, i know that is not your intention. let me ask it this way -- you have got this plan. let's say there are not enough tankers, period. lives are on the line. lives that sometimes can be affected by hours, not even days. what do you do in that kind of situation? well,hristiansen: senator, you know, we really appreciate the concern of the citizens. i would be delighted if we could have a little window into the intelligence, predictive services and the 24 hour decision-making done at the
geographical area and at the national area. when we are in high levels, preparedness levels four and five where we nationally have to prioritize resources, each geographic area, senator cantwell and you, the pacific northwest geographical area, the executives and their key fire leadership are meeting hourly and updating the situation. that feeds into the national interagency fire center, where the national group -- >> can i stop you? i think that is very constructive. it is also in english. so much of what goes on in fire, is hard to comprehend the people. i believe what you just said is, you use your predictive services, then on an ongoing
basis, really hourly, are then able to deploy the assets you have. what if you don't have enough assets? in other words, you make a judgmenthayou do have enough assets, which has been the case over the years, where even the best planning -- you do not have enough assets, what do you do then? mrs. christiansen: it is a prioritization. tiered prioritization of the most critical threats to humans and communities first, critical watersheds and the like. we have additional surge capacity we can bring on. >> where does the surge capacity come from? are these tankers that are somewhere else? that are not part of the two categories you told senator cantwell about but this is a third category that you can bring in if you do not have enough? >> yes.
>> where do they come from? mrs. christiansen: the department of defense, global aviation unit, modular. >> how many? mrs. christiansen: seven. generally bye a the time we are in the significant part of the fire the, we say fire year in west, we can bring partners down from canada, our two additional search capacities and we are putting out additional call when the west, we can bring our partners down from canada, our two additional search capacities, and we are putting out an additional call when needed and later in the summer, to 30.cipate up >> i am over my time. i want to close by saying i ink you're working hard at
this. that is the key. i would like it if you can also furnish a committee, a written answer to what i just asked. -- center --about senator michalski and i used to talk about this. if you could geto -- that to us in writing, i think you are working very hard at this and your relationship with keeping us informed is very instructive. we appreciate it. thank you, madam chair. >> 15 seconds, i want to make sure nafta is the partner you want on the hourly updates, ok? we want to make sure nasa is giving you the satellite information you need on an hourly basis. >> absolutely. we are working with nasa. >> thank you both. >> good to see you again before the committee. the last fire season in montana, it was nearly 1.4 million acres burned.
acres, ft a great deal of dead and dying timber which causes serious publ safety risks. we see significant delays associated with the analysis of the burned areas and they present the savitt -- the other long-term restoration work from being completed in a timely manner. montana -- we all know the clock is ticking when it is still salvageable. i've heard from many montanans whomontana want the service to r torgency situation authority get the work done sooner. i encourage you to approve these fires infor the montana. can you provide an update for these approvals? thank you,ansen:
senator daines. i am quite pleasit staff. we put together strike teams to work with communities and industry on what would be an place to receive this material. using the emergency situation determination place to receive y important tool both for health and safety and the imminent threat of declining rapidly. i expectunrise project, i signed last week, regional forest, martin knows what i expect to see. i will have those with the next two weeks.
>> that is refreshing and very good to hear. given the sometimes lengthy approval process, what can congress do to encourage faster and more extensive use of this? i think it isen: just understanding the process and the balance. obviously, we take the tool very seriously but we need to not abuse it. we want to be strategic and really look for the areas where the health and safety and critical decline of the project are safe. we would like early involvement in the scoping so we can move out with lee. we move this in a transparent way. your help in getting communities
to work with as quickly i think will help down the line. and your continued support of the tool that we can uphold it as it was intended to be used. >> thank you. can you discuss the economic as well as environmental benefits of carrying on that -- efforts as quickly as possible following rge fires? mr. rupert: sure. restoration, identify that as being slightly different with emergency stabilizatine half -- which happens to after the fire. i thinks, iis loca, caon, location. there are many areas around the in therehere getting immediately, this is a local need that idriven
think we have here. worke immediately getting on the ground and immediately getting trees replanted. that actually makes the most to get to a healthy state that is economically supported. there are other parts of the country where, quite frankly, we probably don't want to get in there immediately. because the conditions that will really lead to successful restoratmay not be in place until later in the year are after we have rain -- i mean, a holder ride he of different circumstances. so i think it sort of depends based on locations but there are many examples where the faster we can do it, the faster we can get in there, the better. >> can you address what impact the litigation has on addressing
the targets? ms. christiansen: litigation clearly takes focus away from getting our work done. criticalts the restatn to create the fire reliency we are all trying to achieve. our staffs.se to folkscould work with early in a collaborative process and if everyone could come to the table, we are always willing to hear everyone and work it out. on the back end really slows down the important critical work. >> and it is awfully expensive. wrapping up, you know the most recent forecasts from the agency fire center reduction above fire potential. i saw your chart and took a picture of it.
here we are with snowpacks above average and flooding across the state. as you mentioned, a lot of variables go into the outlook here it looks like we need to buckle up. to be done tos address the significant threats of the wildfire. my look forward to building additional support for some of these litigation protections and reductions in red tape so these can t ooner. >> thank you. hah fo>>being . me associate myself with the comments the chair made with respect to sexual harassment. i could not agree with you more that it is a cultural change and
we have to be vigilant constantly and have policies and procedures in place. i look forward to making sure we are costly addressing the issue. let me talk about lake tahoe, which is important for nevada and california. issue74% of the areas public ld after decades of fire the forests are highly vulnerable to insect disease and catastrophic wildfires and lack the diversity and age structure to support a healthy forest system and forest management projects are ,ssential to the communities and the threat of the catastrophic wildfire is a top concern for the fire community.
we can see from the maps -- wh precautions are being undertaken for this area in particular? thank you,ansen: senator. a quick comment on work environment, it is not one-day training. this is a starting point for a long journey with regards to , it is an emblem of a community at high risk with high populations. it is a good example of a community working across boundaries together. i hate to say this but it is working way up front of any fire , sometimes several years of working across boundaries, both getting the resiliency of the
land in better shape, as you suggested, and, the community is prepared, being fire adaptive. the tools added to farm bill tohat wam 2012 recently passed in the omnibus, a great step forward f us to be able to move more swiftly and and to stabilize when the fix goes into effect and operating environments so we can do this on the ground. additionally the cop -- additionally, the forms we are doing internally are helping us to get more work done. increased 36%the of work across the lands. that means, with our local partners. principles of the cohesive
strategy where we need to have fire adaptive communities and have an effective response to fire, i havkn ian and want to get me out to lake tah, and i had been there a couple of years ago leadership.at >> we appreciate you being participants in that area. community tol really address the issue and we appreciate you being there. let me jump back to the topic of a conversation the senator talked about. when there are fires going on in a particular state, it is not just impacting the state. if there are fires in california, we see smoke and hayes in southern nevada. it has an impact on that.
i'm curious what is it you looked to address the health benefit, when it comes to that and issues affiliated with any type of wildfire? i know you have an office of environmental health that studies events in particular but i -- my understanding is that is -- office of environmental health? is that not true? i'm notstiansen: familiar with that, no. i can speak to a partnership that at the greater community, we entered in with the center for disease control, and they are helping a study the fuel type frowildfire, and the time of year, not all -- to not only
show that the quantity of smoke is different expressed in this report, but the type of matter looking that closely between wildfire smoke, we are really pleased that we have such a solid partnership with the center for disease control because that will accelerate us having a public conversation. >> mr. ruppert, do you have any comments? familiar,: i am not and i happy to look more specifically into it and give you a response about that office. lookld just say that as we where we are now and where we want to go the future to deal with the issue, there is a lot of interaction between the
and air managers, epa and others, and essentially, i is k the shared vision we are much better off under a prescribed fire scenario where we control the circumstances and volumes and character of the smoke in the air, as opposed to catastrophic and uncontrolled wildfire where we have no control whatsoever and we are stuck with it. >> i agree. thank you. thank you both. >> thank you, senator. the vegetationt management provisions we incl in the omnibus. me a status report on the implementation of the ?rovisions we had included
when thinking about the phal integritywhen thinking about thl integrity of distribution infrastructure, this is key to protect the reliability of the energy grid. give me a quick update. >> certainly, senator. we have moved swiftly and have full analysis of these provisions and we have given really specific direction to the region. as you know, they will give us the plans for -- in this week. vegetation management is more opportunistic. so i have asked everyone of the twoonal forrester's describe how they are prepared to meet response times that those utilities will require so that we can be timely in allowing vegetation management
projects to move forward. region toction to the be ready and shows how they are prior -- prioritizing. >> mr. ruppert, are the folks at blm in the far as -- forest services court in the implementation effort? there has been very active ongoing engagement and comingn looking up with consistent approaches to this. blm as well coming into the process. close to the policy. essentially reinforcing the timelines and expectations for implementation. good. good.
there has been discussion already with regard to the unmanned aerial systems. offices doi and the coordinate with forest service in terms of the drone program? do you both operate separately, and is there some level of coordination that goes on with these? mr. rupert: maybe i will start. the interior drone operations are not strictly wildfire. in fact, the majority of the are actuallys resource missions. so, surveys and inspections. in the case of wildfire, we have a fleet, i think we are approaching 500 owned -- dli
owned drones. we have several hundred certified operators. many of those are qualified to operate on the incident. the coronation occurs -- the coordination that occurs -- to theseoing incidents that we know it have certified and qualified of pilotingpable the drones in that environment to support the incident response . so in a lot of ways, it is very similar to how we coordinate, you know, all other assets in the world. has been one successful part of the drone implementation, that we really have taken a communitywide
implementation standard approach. >> to we have any sense as to the savings that we might be able to attain by using drones? obviously, from a safety perspective, it is clear there, but, in terms of using the traditional air draft versus drones for some of the more traditional wildfire tasks, to have a sense of what that cost savings might be? ms. christiansen: we do not have specific dollar figures but like any buildup and investment, what we imagine we can get to, as mr. ruppert says and both the resource of things, the detections that we do across the nation, when we can get that to having drones instead of the aerial surveys, then it is in
the magnitude of tens that the potential savings is. to how farhat stage we will be able to go replacing people, but we imagine it can be great and we will incrementally work ourselves there. >> let me ask a little about that. i was up in south-central last -- alaska and was struck by the what we are seeing up towards -- it is an area i had not really noticed. obviously, the peninsula had been decimated some years back. and, unfortunately, we are
some evidence that the beetle maybe back. it is my understanding some evis is done through surveillance, that thee seeing beetle has already decimated over 6 million acres. 1.3 million acres, more than 3 on thatspruce trees that peninsula alone. so again, we pay very close on thatn to peninsula alone. on that peninsula alone. attention to this because of potential for on that peninsula alone. so again, we pay very close attention to this because of potential for increased fire
threat particularly down on the peninsula right now. it is not just that peninsula. looking at my clips this morning , just in this morning's newspaper were around the state, we had a fire in the national went up this morning, a small one, and then the first up fire off of the road just from the area where i grew up. it is fire season for us. to havee are projected a normal year but for us, normal is often times one million acres. this is something we watched with great interest. tot are the agencies doing work together again, not just and worst service, but working with a state as we thedoing what some of beetle kill issues, and the situation, whether it is now moving morinto south-central? >> senator, the recent detection
surveyed into a 17, that was 27 flown in alaska acres recorded0 forest damage. you are correct in only-central, there were acres -- over 400,000 in the recent survey, largely in the valley in that area as you describe. it is across all lands. collectively only and we have put together a beetle working group and researched that group in alaska with a division of foureet and alaskan -- >> as i understand, the test thee was focused on peninsula. are you expanding this to a broader area? >> yes. that is my understanding. website a spruce beetle
and we have also awarded special technology development grant to develop methods for having a broader look both spatially and theorally detecting both past present across alaska. this will help us monitor the disease activity on a larger scale and what is behind this. we are working in southeast alaska, the largest area, there are smaller pockets of his peter -- beetle activity and largest area is the national park. protection program is collaborating with park staff about monitoring this summer appeared we are clearly working across boundaries in the park as well. >> as we all know, and it is not just in alaska.
again, making sure that the forest management tools that we omnibus, to in the really do more, when comes to burning,hey prescribed just every effort that we can do to reduce that fire risk, but also, really working to address the management reforms that we all believe are critically important, as you -- we know you do as well. , and thuse more vote the absence of other colleagues here this morning. if folks do have questions, for will make sure they come to your attention and we ask that you was on to their concerns as well. i do want to ask one more question and this relates to the
rule there. you know my position on it. i've always said i did not think it made any sense of place where it is an area just made up of communities,island and so, as we are looking to , the big focus -- you have a petition from the state of alaska that asks for that exemption from the road so, last time you were here, we had a conversation about this and the service plans. so can you give me an update on andstatus of the petition
when that service might act on that petition? >> thank you, senator appeared i absolutely can. secretary perdue and governor walker spoke on this past friday, june 1. to pursue state specific rule to address the possibleas swiftly as in the national forest and the access for timber energy and many other forms of aess. we are working closely with the state to align resources and get started immediately. funding andtified the resources in people and staffing and expertise, to get
started. we are in close contact with the state and we will be glad to keep you up to date. >> i appreciate that. and perhaps what we need and what we want to do is to schedule a meeting with yrself and secretary, if he is available to further discuss. cognizant that with a state my good friend, the senator from idaho, is one that led that in his state and he has made it clear to me that this is not an easy process or a quick process.r a cheap so, making sure that there is a good understanding as to what the process for basically moving forward with the petition is, how that is clearly outlined, it is certainly my hope that
whatever that process looks like, it does not resulin anything less than the full exemption. able told like to be speak with both you and the secretary about that petition. how wein, understanding can move forward in a way that acknowledge the reality of the situation that we face, i would look forward to more discussion on that. , i think, as i'm looking through, maybe the question was asked when i was but have you,t,
provided status on the firefighting use and effectiveness study? that was back in 2012 and it is my understanding that the agency this use and effectiveness study, five years ago. it is my understanding that we really have not seen any information that has been released from the work, which, you know, that does not make any sense and is not acceptable. later, we still haven't seen that released, again, i do not know if you have addressed this already and if you have, i apologize, but can you just tell me where we are with that? >> certainly, and i have not addressed it yet.
as you know, that is a study to look over a variety of different fire situations, use and effectiveness. are we using inappropriately and how effective is it. this is a major itmt. return is a critical tool but we want to know if we are using it correctly. like any studies, i get frustrated as well, that it takes the amount of time and fires and different types of fires to have a reasonable study and it was always intended to be five years of field data. so they are collecting that now into a report and we will see a draft report in the coming months with it -- with a final report in 2019. >> i understand what you're
saying about how we want it to become pensive. but i think we also recognize that we as a what you're saying about how congress have with someprovide you resources and tools that you ti.e been asking for for a long but you would knowledge, in your own statement, that this is not a blank check to us. we are doinge that right by these reforms and doing right by these additional dollars that are coming your way and additional resources, we want to be guided by things that are going to make some sense. things that i hear is that when it comes to aircraft objectives, atain somewhat random thing, like what do we have here and you pull this in. that is not cost-efficient pair that is not using our money smartly. so i would hope that, you're
trying to get this into alignment, that we are not going through resources we have this year because we have it and next year, we promise to do it smartly because we will have results of the study. if you have information that could help point you in a better direction, now, i would hope ou a setting yourself up to do just that. ms. christiansen: yes, senator, we are. year,e implemented last the longer study is ongoing and we look forward to those results . in getting preliminarily briefed here soon, but we also have the ournology now with scientists, within a 12 hour real-time --o have at real-time maps to our management teams were they can
thethe effectiveness of prior burning the window of response and was that effective? a wee just burn through thought would be effective? we're doing real-time learning as well as the longer term study. with both of those, we are making adjustments and will have more information and we will be glad to work a few on that. >> i would appreciate that. i think you heard similar concerns from both senators on this here it again, we see that yes, these are extraordinarily important assets and we want you to have that, those aviation assets. but we also want to know that we are being smart with all of this the studyquest for 2012 and the
frustration, and if my math is rrect, if we really put this in place in 2012, we are beyond our five years now. >> yes. i believe it was in 13. >> all right. hurried up. ms. christiansen: we will. thishave no questions at time but if colleagues have submissions, you will see them. i know it is not a policy but maybe we just pray for rain this and we also pray for the safety of the men and women out on the front lines. i think we all know that it is lostdangerous and we have far too many as they have been out there on the front lines. hopefully, it will be a safe season. with that, the committee stands adjourned.
today, theol hill house returns from an 11 day recess pyramid is meet at noon eastern time for generals teachers and 2:00 to start the legislative day. from the natural resource committee, seven bills will be considered, including making route 66 a natural historic trail. that starts at 4:30 eastern and
you can watch that live here on c-span. education secretary betsy devos testifying before a senate subcommittee on the 2019 but it -- budget request for her department. you can watch the hearing tonight, also on c-span. >> on wednesday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span two, a memorial service marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of robert f kennedy from the arlington cemetery. family, members of congress, and former president l clinton. that memorial service at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span two. c-span.org or listen on the free c-span radio app. >> last week come president trump pardon author and filmmaker dinesh desousa, convicted four years ago for making illegal campaign contributions.