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tv   Hearing Examines Efforts to Reduce Wildland Fire Risk  CSPAN  August 7, 2017 4:04am-5:59am EDT

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>> good morning. the committee will come to order. we are here today to take a look at wildfires, to examine our wildfire management program,
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the collaboration that is what iron to reduce risk to firefighters, communities, and resources and some of the emerging technologies that are changing the way that fires are managed. we are now well into the 2017 fire season. it is certainly a very active one. my friend from montana, i think, is going to share some of what is happening in his state this morning. i think it is appropriate to recognize the heroic acts of the men and women who fight these fires throughout the season. and to recognize the firefighter from montana. and to recognize the firefighter from montana. >> i will talk about it in my remarks but we lost a firefighter last night in montana. it is our second fatality in two weeks. >> know that our hearts and our prayers are with the families
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but again, this speaks to the realities that we face with our wildfires and are fires around the country, that this is dangerous and unpredictable work. our thoughts and our prayers are with those who are serving. as of august 1, nearly 39,000 fires have burned almost 5.5 million acres of land. for comparison, this is an area about the size of the state of new hampshire. in alaska, we have a low fire year this year, 300 fires burning 600,000 acres. it is a lot of land but it is below normal for us, so we are certainly not complaining. two years ago, in 2015, 5 million acres burned in alaska alone. from the state of alaska, they understand this all too well. 2016 was one of the worst years on record, burning over 10 million acres in total. this committee has spent a lot of time and a lot of good work
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working on legislation to address the consequences of wildfire. we will continue that work until we arrive at legislative solutions, hopefully sooner than later. what we need is a comprehensive solution that addresses wildfire budgeting and forest management. we need to tackle both of those at once. because we know the wildfire problem is not just a budgeting problem but a management problem. our ranking member senator cantwell along with senator wyden, senator rich gave us a government of solution, the wildfire response and forest management act. our proposal included a fiscally responsible fix to permanently and the destructive practice. we require congress to provide resources to the agency upfront, enough to cover 100% of the annual cost of firefighting over the previous 10 years while
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allowing for a limited cap adjustment when we experience catastrophic years. our proposal took steps to address the hurdles that stand in the way of incrementing the treatment needed to mitigate wildfire risks, increase firefighter safety, and make our forests more healthy and resilient. we would increase the use of technologies such as drones and gps trackers and fire risk mapping and make needed investments in community wildfire protection plans as well as fire watch programs. our wildfire strategy needs to include all of these important pieces of the management puzzle and we know that other members on our committee also have ideas that need to be considered. our hearing today is focused on oversight of wildfire management programs and the use of technology.
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our goal is a good bill that will fix these problems so the president will be able to sign this into law. we came up short in the last congress but as we will hear today, fires continuing to destroy our lands is a lot more that we could do. there is a lot more that we must do from budgeting, to new technologies, to better management practices to save them. i want to thank our witnesses for being here today and particularly extend my appreciation to alaska's state forester. with that i will turn to ranking member cantwell. >> thanks for holding this hearing. before i begin i want to thank the over 12,000 million women who fight iris -- the 12th thousand men and women who fight fires in our country. our thoughts and prayers are with those in montana who have lost lives and the firefighters who are continuing to battle the blazes. these firefighters have been working to save homes,
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communities and people and sure they are always there to answer the call. their diligent work has saved many hundreds of residents already this year. the chair mentioned our efforts in the last congress to work diligently together in a bipartisan effort. i can assure all of my colleagues here that there was no stone unturned, no late-night not visited by sheet, myself, our staff, the leadership in the united states senate. and to make a down payment on what our fuel reduction strategies are for the future. we couldn't quite get there with our house colleagues so any of you who think that you can help us get them to pay attention in a more serious way, we would be grateful. we have come together on a bipartisan solution in the united states senate to and fire borrowing and make investments for the future and i certainly hope that we can get the intention -- get the attention to reinvigorate those efforts and pass it when we return later
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after the summer session. today, we are here to talk about one of the additional tools we can give firefighters. as of today, 50% more acres have already burned this year and yesterday a forecast report was released that protected the weather was likely to experience above normal wildfires over the next month. that shouldn't surprise people since we know what has been trending the last few years. while in the state of washington we have some fires, the rest of the country is seeing even more impact. today's hearing is about the tools that we can give to help
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decrease the risk of firefighting. i want to thank stephen king from being here from washington to talk about the innovative actions the city of wenatchee has been doing. we know all too well from the carlton complex and many other things that impact our state were over 100 million acres burned up in one afternoon, the threat, and how fast these fires can move. so we want to make sure that we are giving new tools to firefighters. if we are seeing a new normal, which i don't want to think that it is normal because this is very stressful for all of our communities, but if we are seeing a new increase because of the dry conditions and the abilities for fire to spread in so many more places more quickly, what can technology do to help us address this and make it safer for the future? a couple of approaches that my colleague senator gardner and i have been working on is to be making sure we are using new technology to help us deal with fires. that is, for the first time ever, wildfire mapping aircraft. the ability for aircraft to fly over these areas and also use unmanned aerial vehicles that would generate real-time mapping where the fires are burning, making gps locators to fire crews available, wildfire today refers to the combination of crew location and real-time fire maps as the holy grail of wildland firefighting. because it improves the safety
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for our firefighters. this legislation would also increase and encourage federal agencies to take advantage of the tools we have at nasa in order to speed up the planning that goes into effect to prevent after the fire fact of flooding and erosion. these are important issues. i know as we look every year at noaa's information working with the forest, we know where our hotspots are going to be. not that other spots are not going to see an impact because you never know when fires will start but it gives us information about where to catch
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and put resources so they already available -- so they are readily available. we want to do better with real-time forecasting information. in washington, we have a gap in the central part of our state. we do not want to have a region less protected because they don't have accurate weather forecasting information. we want to build on the state of the technology and to make sure that every community knows when and when it should not be sending firefighters out given the weather forecast and the challenges we face. so i agree with the chair. we need to work efficiently, we need to work together, we need to get, as i'm sure we are going to hear about, the hasty response approach that has been used in the central part of washington. that is, to have everybody
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ready, given the outbreaks of fires in so many locations, to have a hasty response. we also need a hasty response to getting this legislation over the goal line with our house of representatives as well. thank you for holding this important hearing and thank our witnesses for being here. our thoughts and prayers are with those families impacted by those fire seasons. >> thank you, senator cantwell. know that my commitments remain to help address this in a way that is going to be more than the jerky way it has been handling, the borrowing that limits the ability of our agencies to do the work that we need to do. so having an approach that will yield in during policy, what we are looking for here. i am pleased to be able to local the panel this morning. we have good input and i appreciate the time that you will spend with us. we will be led off by victoria christiansen, the deputy chief for the state and private forestry service and the department of agriculture. mr. brian rice is the director for the office of wildfire in
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the department of the interior. i have mentioned my friend, the state forester for the alaskan department of natural resources, and he is also here this morning wearing another hat on behalf of the national association of state foresters. we appreciate your leadership. mr. steve king is the economic development director of the city of one at she, washington. -- of wenatchee washington. we also want to introduce dr. miller. i of course want to thank both of you for an incredibly important hearing and as the ranking democrat on agriculture and forest tree, i want to work closely with you so we can resolve this so that when we go into the forestry title to focus on prevention and management,
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all the money isn't transferred over to fight fires. so thank you for that. we have tremendous expertise in mission -- in michigan and i want to introduce dr. mary ellen miller who is a research engineer in ann arbor. michigan tech, which is actually in the upper peninsula, way up where i was known -- not long ago, getting to know the place. she is a leader in information technology to solve security, infrastructure, and environmental problems. with the help of nasa, dr. miller has used models and earth observations to predict erosion and run off after wildfires in colorado and california. not all of her work is high-tech. she also spends plenty of time out in the field with more low-tech tools like bucket gauges and a bucket hat. thank you for being with us today, dr. miller. we look forward to hearing your unique scientific insight and how water shows are impacted by
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wildfires. thank you senator stabenow. to lead the plan aloft -- to lead the panel off, we welcome your comments. >> members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss and collaborate on reducing wildfire risk. after the events of yesterday, the loss of one of our own, our hearts are heavy and we are sending our condolences to our whole community. it is a very important -- appropriate time for this discussion. my name is vickie christiansen, deputy chief of forestry for the usda forest service. my remarks will be framed by the national cohesive wildfire management strategy. a blueprint for building synergies to address the nations
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growing wildfire challenges. the three goals of the cohesive strategy are restoring and maintaining resilient landscapes, creating fire adapted communities and and effective risk space wildfire -- risk-based wildfire response. the commission is devoted to restoring and maintaining resilient landscapes across all jurisdictions. in the national forest, we achieved 3 million acres of treatment last year. we worked across boundaries with our partners. in 2006, we provided financial support to carry out nearly 150,000 acres of treatment on nonfederal land. since 2006, we have assessed more than 3000 of the steel treatments. when tested by wildfire, 90% of these treatments have shown to reduce the impacts of wildfire. in arizona, the field treatments
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associated with the white mountain stewardship project dramatically slows the rate of spread of the wildfire to allow the firefighters to safely protect homes and properties. the board service collaborates with state and local partners to help prepare communities to withstand a wildfire. this is challenging because of the increasing of element in the wildland urban interface. we work to assist communities in developing community wildfire protection plans. these plans bring community members together to address wildfire response and community preparedness. as a risk assessment technology has developed, our capability to help communities reduce their risk to wildfire has really evolved. for example, you will hear more
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from mr. king about our community planning assistance for wildfire programs. wildfire prevention is a critical element to working collaboratively across land ownership boundaries. nationally, nearly nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans, including some of the most costly fires. if we prevent unwanted human caused fires, we can proactively use our resources to create resilient landscapes, improve our response and help communities be prepared. a long-standing example of federal and nonfederal collaboration is smokey bear. this campaign is administered by the forest service, the national association of state foresters and the ad council. smokey will be 73 next week and he is one of the world's most recognizable characters. our goal at the forest service is to work with partners to continuously improve our risk-based response to
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wildfires. no one agency has the capability or the surge capacity to respond to wildfires alone. so we have a collaborative approach in the u.s. it includes federal, state, tribal, city, county contracts and volunteer firefighters. we continue to work with our cooperators and industry on emerging technology to help respond to challenges of fire. the board service invests more than 34 million each year in wildland fire information and technology systems and we work closely with the department of the interior to develop an integrated approach and prioritize our investment to be able to update our legacy systems. the central platform is the enterprise portal.
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the portal provides up-to-date wildland fire situational information to first responders, to fire managers, and the public. they are our research and development ranch. we continue to partner with nasa on new and emerging technologies. we also partner and dli takes the lead on interagency take ability on unmanned aircraft operations. although our missions and priorities among our partners are diverse, we are united in a common vision and set of goals defined by the cohesive strategy. established to collectively address our wildland fireedeeour responsibilities to the citizens of the u.s. thank you for the opportunity to discuss wildfire risks and collaborations. we look forward to working with the committee on these important issues. host: thank you. mr. rice, welcome. >> chairman murkowski, ranking member cantwell, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you. thank you for the opportunity to talk about the department of the
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interior's wildfire program. first, i would like to start by saying we in this department are set by yesterday's news of the fatality in montana. the department of the interior's heartfelt condolences went out to family and friends and others affected by those situations. overall, we are seeing the cumulative impacts of climate variability, drought, and invasive species that are creating a situation more susceptible to large and devastating wildfires. so far, we have seen outbreaks across the country and numerous geographic areas. it working through this, the national cohesive strategy, which my partner alluded to, is the backbone of the national wildfire management policy and is still in collaboration with federal, state, tribal, local, all of the partners and representatives determined by the federal government to actively involved partners in
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planning decision-making. active management work is done collaboratively with our partners, or done directly on department lands through each of the bureaus within the department of the interior, the effective strategies for mitigating risk. in the department of the interior's resilience -- resilient landscapes initiative, partners at the local level on fuel management projects achieved fire resilience across multiple jurisdictions and broad landscapes. this year, the department supported an initiative that valued private landowners, tribal, space, local governments and other agencies that work hand-in-hand with the department to safeguard the community. together, we continue to plan
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and execute these activities as well as improving the range landscapes. it is important to talk about the advancements in technology that play a critical role in the department fire program. the use of unmanned aircraft system is important in our day-to-day operations. interiors government leader and resource and development and a practical employment for nondefense purposes, currently, the department uses it to support firefighters in the field by mapping the use of infrared technologies and gathering data for strategic fire planning. the department of established fire operation guidelines has coordinated with state agencies as well as developing the specifications for a government owned fleet of ua esses -- ua ses. we are discussing their role in future operations including fire retardant and cargo. it may include the use of larger highlighted aircraft. in june of this year, the department announced the expansion of its wildland fire location data sharing service being current wildland fires.
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available to the public through geo the early adopters of alaska and texas, other states are added which include wyoming, north dakota, california, and we are expecting others to engage as well. the system is available to the public and informs drone operators in the real-time where not to fly so they can avoid interference with fire operations. another important advancement that is helping improve the departments responsible is the use of high definition cameras with infrared technologies that help spot fires in remote geographic areas across nevada. the bureau of land management's fire, camera and network program has joined up with the university of nevada reno's seismological lab. a cameras have been installed on remote mountain geeks and are used for early fire detection allowing managers to shift resources as needed to better
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manage fires. this is another service available to the public. the data is available. the department acknowledges we have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to fighting fire efficiently and safely. we believe that technology advancements allow a better position to address wildland fire. we look forward to supporting the safety of the firefighters and the public, enhancing our response abilities, and promoting further collaborations with our partners. thank you for the opportunity to discuss the department's fire program and i will be happy to answer any questions you have. >> thank you, mr. rice. welcome, mr. mace. >> ranking member cantwell and members of the committee, my fellow council members, my name is chris mace of the alaska division of forestry and president of the national association of state foresters. i appreciate the opportunity to speak on the topics of wildfire risk mitigation and the use of
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new technology on the fire line. the mission of my division is to serve alaskan's. the division is the lead agency for fire management services at 150 million acres of land with the primary goal of protecting property. my staff works closely with two key partners, the forest tree service and the department of the interior fire service with the latter agency being our main partner in alaska. i would like to address my topic. i am reducing risks to communities and firefighters by walking through how it is created and the floyd on the ground. my written statement has included several case studies of projects that were used and actual wildland fire incidents but i'm going to focus on one project in alaska.
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the process starts with a state action plan, and the key document is the focus on limited resources via a publicly vetted process and state priorities. this turns into a cwpp that goes into more detail and can be for any jurisdictional unit that works well for the planning process. agencies provide science-based indicators of fuel breaks or other treatments that are appropriate. work is conducted at the landscape level and for individual properties in alaska, in a nexus with usa principles, forrester's experts on working with small landowners and in our proposal we encourage landowners to reduce risk. this work is cross boundary and follows the strategy of defense and depth.
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if you are a student of military tactics, you will recognize the outer ring landscapes you'll break and forest management. into individual treatments for individual properties as you move further into the interface. in 2014, the fire at the kenai wildlife refuge along the funny river road by a burnout operation as a man fire approached. if you have written testimony, look at page two figures one and two. for what these treatments look like. the fire log reports the progression of the fire. may 19 at 1600 hrs, the fire was reported, driven by strong northerly winds and by 22:30, the fire was seven miles long and three quarters of a mile wide. may 20, the fire rose an additional 21,000 acres and the phase two team takes command. may 21 through may 24, the fire increases by 83,000 acres. on may 26, the fire rose an additional 45,500 acres in the fuel break is used in a burnout operation.
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refer to page four to see that this operation taking place is the fire line. property values protected were over 250 million dollars in value. the significant test for this type of a fuel break. around the country, there are other examples and there are other case studies cited. one additional product in alaska and two in arizona. it is worth mentioning that last year, 82% of wildfires and 50% of acreage burns were on private land. we need to get in front of this problem and continue to provide solid support for the full range of forest reprograms, particularly for the sfa and bfa line items.
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these create fire adapted communities, create defensive space and educated the public. i would like to briefly address the use of technology and innovative uses of uavs. the forest service utilizing a uav during an initial attack fire. it increases situational awareness for the commander and an operational staff as well as becoming a standard tool utilized for several purposes. the addition of an infrared camera to a uav platform shows great promise for assisting mop up operations by identifying heat and the areas being graded in real-time for crew. the written testimony goes into details on joint efforts by the fire service and division to incorporate uavs into our operation, including training, equipment needs, and the next steps to continue this process. i would like to stress the
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importance of cross boundary fuels on federal, state, and private land. for protecting communities as well as increasing operational value, new technologies such as uavs and fire suppression operations, the forest service state and private programs are critical funding sources for these types of activities and as demonstrated in today's panel, states and the rural fire departments are at the forefront of the problem. there is energy need to increase the amount of reports management taking place on several lands throughout the country. there are examples of federal managers arising to the challenge but too often, the fuel process delays needed projects. reform is needed to address the problems. another helpful tool is the good neighbor authority which allows state agencies to partner with the forest service to get work done on the ground, improvements in this authority can also be made and that would be based on
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experience of the 95 good neighbor authority agreements and the 29 states throughout the country. thank you again for the opportunity to discuss these important issues and topics. this concludes my testimony. i would be happy to answer any questions you have. >> mr. king, welcome. >> good morning, madam chairman and ranking member. and members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to come to d.c. and present to you. it is my first time. let me present a little bit of background about my career. i served the city as economic develop an director and 15 years ago, i started performing civil engineering work to design water systems for fire response a stone structure loss from the 1992 castle rock fires in which 20 structures were lost. in 2015, when the sleepy hollow fires hit our city, we did not run out of water. so that was a successful
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mitigation effort. the disaster still occurred which tells us we need to look more copperheads of lee on how we address wildfires. i hope my testimony today will communicate to you the value of empowering the community to act and the value of implementing risk reduction strategies and to multi agency collaboratives and partnerships. just a little context for when actually. -- they assume we are from -- we have less rain forests all around us. it is on the east slope of the cascades, beautiful, but we get 10 inches of rain a year and our communities lie on the downwind sides of the foothills of the cascades. the forests give way to shrub step environments and wildfires. i grew up two hours north, just shy of the canadian border next to a retardant based. we had the world war ii trap on fires just about every year. we didn't have a lot of structure loss or impact at that time. there were a few buildings being
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lost in those events. times have changed. communities have grown. it requires a different approach. my uncle served for 30 years with the okanogan national forest. as a spokesperson. i remember, specifically, two times, he had to deal with firefighter deaths. my heart goes out to the folks around them. in 2013, we had the sleepy hollow fires one year after the carlton fires where 120 people were lost. the fires caused the loss of 29 homes and 30 acres of warehouses right in the middle of our community. i was there during the event. i saw the fire turned from a
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called brushfire -- a calm brushfire and by the afternoon, a troubled over a mile in 20 minutes and houses were exploding. i saw that and watched in horror as a firefighter response efforts were quickly overwhelmed and we then saw embers leaping from house to house and a two mile jump into the heart of the city. it is hard to imagine as you are in the middle of that. we have structures in downtown and a chemical facility and it was like, oh boy, this went to a whole new level. i will never forget this. people do forget and people come to a community, and so keeping that presence, understanding that we live in an environment where this could happen is really important. i will talk about how risk mapping helps keep that in the forefront. i also want to say thank you for the investment opportunities in the national fire academy for
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wildfire programs. the chief of our fire department and us have taken up -- that is one of our goals, to be better educated and understanding of the reality of these events. risk mapping. two weeks ago, i sat down with members of the staff from the forest service rocky mount and research station and we did a risk map. there were significant values that come out of that and one of them, as evident last week, was it brings everybody together. agencies have different value sets and that comes out when you start talking about risk mapping. and fire behavior. it is a tool for a call to action. people forget, risk mapping lets you simulate the disaster without actually having to go through the disaster.
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it lets us -- it informs us on how to implement our codes. it tells us the effectiveness of the reduction strategies, such as management. it provides us information on how to protect critical infrastructure like water systems and communication systems. and the technology is changing and will continue to change. there are studies being done right now on ember transports, especially from structures. risk mapping will ultimately incorporate new science and technologies to help us grow and the science becomes available. i just want to come back and stress that our foothills are made up of lands operated by the forest service. the department of the interior, our local nonprofit land trust, our state natural resources department, the city of wenatchee, and the right of property owners. it is paramount that everybody participate in these activities. risk mapping shows the importance of that.
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one property owner can lose it all if the company doesn't participate. once again, it is a call to action, a leveraging tool as well as the technology tool that brings people together. i hope you can see our passion at the city of when actually -- the city of wenatchee and how we are planning to prevent this from happening. i said wildfires will continue to happen and disasters will happen but if we do this successfully, we can, maybe instead of 20 years, it will be 100 years before the next disaster. and it takes this conference of approach to actually achieve that goal. with that, i thank you and would be happy answering questions. >> thank you, mr. king. dr. miller? >> good morning chairwoman markowski and ranking member cantwell. and members of the committee. my name is dr. mary ellen miller
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and i am a research engineer at the tech research institute. my phd is in environmental engineering with a masters in imaging science. let me share with you my nasa applied works in post-fire remediation. my team has built an online database to combine earth observations of burn severity with process-based model inputs. post-fire flooding and erosion poses a significant threat to life, property and natural resources such as our valuable water supply. as part of my phd program, i worked on a very large scale epa project designed to help plan fuel reduction treatments with the goal of protecting our water resources from high severity fire impact. when the project ended, i used data assistance tools that have been developed to rapidly predict post-fire erosion in colorado. there, burned area emergency response teams decide whether
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they need to make remediation plans are not. first observations of burn severity are critical in this process but i was surprised to learn from my research colleagues that spatial process-based models were being underutilized. i didn't understand why until 2011 when the national park service asked me to model a small watershed that burned in the rock house fire in texas. it was only 500 acres, and i had previously modeled 75% of the forest so i thought this would be easy. i was wrong. texas was not part of the original epa area and it took me over a week to assemble the inputs i needed. i was one day late in getting the modeling so it could not be used in the analysis.
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a year later in 2012, i modeled 80,000 acres of the high parks fire for the bear team in 2-3 days. the difference between success and failure was simply preparation. i didn't want what happened at the rock house fire to happen again so i am very proud to introduce a new online rapid response erosion database. we are calling it red for short. it allows you to upload a map into the online database and within seconds, download all of the properly formatted spatial model indicates needed to use process based models. it was created through a collaboration between michigan tech, the nasa applied sciences wildfire program, and the usda forest service rocky mountains research station. data preparation that used to take a week can now be done in seconds. spatial predictions have run off
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erosion will allow the teams to prioritize post-fire remediation. i've seen it used on many major fires. in 2015, the results were used to spatially place $3 million worth of woodsheds. and in the kings fire, $1 million worth of mulching in order to protect the valuable hydroelectric water reservoir. red has been used on planning projects to protect our water supplies, including the one in california. our future goals include expanding our spatial coverage to include alaska and hawaii. we would like to improve red's capabilities for supporting planning projects. we are developing a new modeling interface to work in conjunction with red to make it even easier.
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thank you very much for your firefighting. it is very important. research and educational outreach are vital to support our brave firefighters and teams. thank you very much and i will be happy to answer any questions. sen. murkowski: thank you, dr. miller. i thank each of you. i think we recognize that how we are approaching firefighting, how we are approaching forest management has changed over the years. when you listen to the technologies that are now available to us, the innovation that we are seeing, dr. miller, i appreciate the research and mapping you are doing there, i think we recognize that we've got new tools, which is great. but we are dealing across multiple agencies, dealing with tribal lands, dealing with state and private and federal.
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it is an example where if you are not working together collaboratively, bad things can happen. and in this committee, for the past 14, 15 years, listening every year to where we are with the fire status report and how they are working across agencies, the discussion is always, "we are working together, it is interagency, it ve," but irati really do think we have made extraordinary gain in doing just that. chris, you mentioned the cross boundary fuel efforts. i will direct this question to you, ms. christensen, or mr. ch as well.r. mais with regards to how we determine
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where the fuel mitigation projects should occur on federal , or a cross boundary lines, what is the process? i am assuming your office's work -- offices work with the land managers to help make these decisions. what more do we need to be doing to make sure that we are not just talking about good collaboration, but that any impediments to that are removed? as we know, the fire doesn't know the boundary between lands or state or private lands. so what more do we need to be doing in this realm? chief christiansen: thank you, senator. i will take a first go at this. i appreciate the perspective. that really is the articulation of cohesive strategy, that three national implementation
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principles of the cohesive strategies collectively across jurisdictions in a landscape communities,ve of to, we say comanage risks. , to look at the risk factors in the entire landscape and what those critical values are at risk. and what no one agency can take on an activity that might transfer risk to others. prescribed fire is a perfect example. prescribed fire is often a very important tool, it is taking on short-term risk but to greatly reduce the long-term risk. sen. murkowski: translate that into real application, though. you have one agency that believes you should move forward with prescribed burns. but your community says no, this is a dangerous time of year to be doing that. we know that we get high winds, the conditions on the ground, there is inherent tension between the desire of one agency and what you may have in another
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agency or at the community. chief christiansen: yes. thank you. as mr. maisch mentions, hearing from some very state-level plans or federal level plans into community wildfire protection plans our analytics are so , improved that we can sit down together with different jurisdictions and community members and we can show the risk , as mr. king suggested. our real-time analytics are so advanced, more than they were even five years ago, that that brings a collaboration principle for decision-making in that risk sharing. sen. murkowski: let me interrupt. i'm running out of time here. let me ask, are you satisfied that we really are integrating -- integrated as we need to be? >> thanks for the question, the
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topic, i know your time is short, but it is complicated. with it being complicated, the conversations that need to take place, engagement that needs to happen across all the jurisdictions, whether it is dealing with indian tribes, federal land, state land, all the other jurisdictions, it takes this level of personal engagement for everyone involved. can we improve? i think we can. but as ms. christiansen was saying, we are making leaps and bounds from where we had been in the past. >> thank you, senator, i would agree with our previous speakers. there are places in the country where we are very coordinated and there are places where there are challenges. sen. murkowski: hopefully, we can learn from that. >> for sure. you want to have a lesson learned and learn from the mistakes in the past. one of the ways to help with the community peace in terms of getting communities to buy-in is
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demonstrating that these projects actually do work, and when there is an incident, there is payback. we are able to use those fuel breaks in the preparation they have taken to reduce risk not only to the community, but also to the firefighters. sen. murkowski: i think we saw that with the river fire. >> yes. some of that is using technology. the joint fire science program is a key program that provides a lot of very good information to practitioners at the operational level. one project in alaska that program is working on at uaf, the different types like the shaded fuel break, the masticated fuel break, all of those actually are in different fuel types. -- how effective those actually are in different fuel types. that buys confidence from a
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community that what you would recommend would work. sen. murkowski: senator cantwell? senator cantwell thank you, : madam chair. the only thing you didn't say is that wenatchee is the apple capital of the world. [laughter] when you think about apples and our economic output in that part of the state, it is about $2.5 billion a year. it's a big risk when fire impacts it. you did a good job of explaining we are on the slope. one of the questions i have for this panel in this new use of technology, because that is really what we are finding with these changes of conditions, that having data and information can help us know when to go and when not to the i think we can all say there were probably , incidents in the last two big fires we had in washington where people probably did add to the burn, which was probably the wrong decision. the conditions were just too volatile.
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mr. king, what do you think it is -- right now, when you were talking about house to house, literally a computer -- when one was at risk person had shrubs that were the key. so you go along and see the people burned in these house would be saved. what do you think risk mapping will do you? you talk about the gps system and the aerial mapping? on plane monitor real-time mapping. and ms. christiansen, i don't know why we have foreclosed on this water scooping contract with the forest service. i don't know that we have conclusive data. one of the things we learned in the central part of the state is when you use -- need a hasty
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response, one of the best tools is to access and dump water on the sites. why would we be concluded that we don't want to have that kind of capacity? if you could address those, thank you. good question. the risk mapping has been phenomenal in informing us about the characteristics as a fire -- of how the fire approaches a city and gives us some idea on how to implement strategies along the structures. and so, two things. it tells us how to manage the landscape so that predictable fire behavior is what we understand will happen. and then number two, it tells us -- for example, amber cass from the vegetation -- what depths into the city do we expect a risk of structure loss. the number one strategy is you don't want any structures to go up. once the structures go up, you are into it. -- a new field type. it is called housing fuel types.
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it's a differing game. it really demonstrates the importance of engaging the property owners, whether they are spread out into the wildland areas or into the city themselves to make sure and implement those practices to prevent that structure from going up. it also empowers the land managers, whether it be a land dnr city or county, to implement the right type of fuel mitigation strategy so that , basically, the flames lay down for the get to the house. sen. cantwell: mr. rice, do you : support that gps for firefighters? mr. rice senator, great question : and thank you for that. the way that we are looking at gps and the technology we are using within fires, there is a litany of options, numerous types of capabilities out there. we are looking at cost capability, whether we can actually deploy it and how we manage that data on the back.
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so in terms of do we support looking at different options and how we can actually come up with a solution that is beneficial to firefighters on the ground, they really involve all levels. sen. cantwell: i will come back with more clarity on that. miss christiansen, what do you -- what about the water using these water flight scooping technology? why did we conclude that is not a good idea? chief christiansen: thank you, senator cantwell. water scoopers are certainly a tool in our aviation strategy. we have not concluded they are ineffective. but as you know, in our proposed fy 18 budget we had to make some , critical choices.
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we had to look at being good stewards of the tax payers' dollars. in that choice, we are not planning to hold an exclusive use contract but can access scoopers through called when needed mechanisms. currently this year, we have two under exclusive use contract. in -- two colin needed. sen. cantwell: thank you, madam chair. sen. murkowski: thank you. sen. daines: >> as has been already discussed earlier, vermont is experiencing a busy wildfire season. we have seen 1200 fires so far this year. as we speak, there are 31 fires burning across the state. just yesterday, the top 10 national priority fires are all burning in montana. much of western montana is clouded by smoke, leading to unhealthy air quality for tens of thousands of montanans.
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hundreds are under evacuation orders, and worst of all, trenton johnson, a 19-year-old from missoula, who was a sophomore at montana state university, my alma mater, he died while battling a fire. just yesterday afternoon, we received word of another loss of life. we lost a firefighter while peak fire.e low low the name has not been released. our thoughts and prayers go to the families of these brave men and women who are protecting our lives and property while risking their lives in these wildfires on the front lines. both appear to have been hit by falling trees. unfortunately, the national interagency fire center rates -- anticipates above average fires in montana.
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forward to the september map, showing that the dire conditions look to continue. we are having discussions in early august that we would normally have in early september because we have a long way to go. we need to address how we fund and prepare communities for wildfires and we need to recognize wildland firefighters for what they do and give injured firefighters flexibility in their retirement compensation. ranking member cantwell and i have introduced legislation to do just that. it allows to use proven tactics to reduce the threat of wildfires near our montana communities and do what we can to reduce the intensity of the fires during these times of higher potential. furthermore, we know that wildfires will never know the difference, as the ranking member and the chair just said, between forest service, blm, and private property, so reducing fuel loads across boundaries is integral to reducing fire
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severity. on a phone call i had last night -- it seems like i am on the phone a lot at the moment with our commissioners, shares, and -- sheriffs, and commanders -- just last night i had a conversation with a county commissioner in deathless montana montana -- inthwest southwest montana. he mentioned to me that it can get near one of the large -- sition lines that come cut across the state. because of the carbon particulate in the air, it creates arcing near high-voltage lines and presents a risk for the firefighters. it just reminds us that we need to move forward. there is a bill we were planning to introduce that has passed the house called the electric, reliability and forest
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protection act. it passed the house 300-118 in june. it will speed up the process for removing hazardous fuels that are adjacent to electrical infrastructure. i tell you what, when the fires are burning like this we can't , get firefighters near it because it presents a risk to their lives. so we need to do that collectively ahead of time. we need to get at the heart of the discussion and showcase advised collaboration. this cross boundary work. our forest communities will continue to be frustrated by lack of management as they live in fear of wildfire wildfires. -- fear of wildfires. miss christianson, the creek fires in the helena national forests are burning in the location of the stonewall vegetation management project. this was identified by the for service and local collaborative as an area in need of restorative treatment and in need of hazardous fuel reduction. this project was blocked through
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injunction due to the disastrous cottonwood decision. now we have intense wildfires burning over 8000 acres. one can only wonder implementing the project without delay might have made a difference. this is infuriating. my question is, was the stonewall project conceived through a collaborative process? did the forest service do robust scientific analysis in preparing the project? chief christiansen: yes, senator, we did. sen. daines: after the injunction with the stonewall project reduced the area susceptibility to wildfire? chief christiansen: for this particular project, i cannot say for certain. in the over 3000 assessments of hazardous treatments we assessed, 90% of them, when tested by wildfire, has changed the behavior of the fire. sen. daines: i'm out of time.
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i will say i appreciate our secretary purdue as well as secretary zinke's clear support of my legislation to undue the damage of the cottonwood. sen. tester: diet are together on this. the obama administration was supporting us in these effort. we'll keep fighting until it is signed into law. thank you. sen. wyden: thank you very much. i want to thank all our witnesses. i think it is very clear that the system of fighting fire in this country is a broken mess.unctional the fight has been going on. it is the longest running battle since the trojan war. now we got an emergency wildfire declared by our governor. we went with one approach. 250 groups. forestry groups, scientists, environmental folks, all whom endorsed the legislation. still nothing happened. i asked the chief a few weeks ago about the cost of inaction.
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the chief said it is millions of acres untreated and we're out a billion dollars over a 10 year. . being. this just cannot continue. -- over a 10 year period. this just cannot continue. what i like to ask is about a new approach that reflects fema, the federal emergency management agency, said that wildfires changed landscapes so dramatically that communities affected by them are at a significantly higher risk of flooding. few weeks ago, banking committee led by chairman crapo and senator brown introduced a , flood insurance bill that incorporates a wildfire fix. miss christensen, to what extent do wildfires increase the risk of catastrophic flooding? anef christiansen: there is association, senator.
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often on the catastrophic fires that are very intensely burned hot, they scar the soils. water is not and to penetrate into the soil bed. that's why we have our bear process. sen. wyden: you don't have difference of opinion with respect to fema that the wildfires can cause a significantly higher risk of flooding? chief christiansen: the administration has not taken a position -- sen. wyden: i ask you. i'm not asking about your position i'm asking about the , science. fema is talking about the science. you disagree with the science? chief christiansen: no, sir. sen. wyden: thank you. one other question, chairman as matter for the record. senator heinrich, senator merkley and i would like to put into the record a letter of support for the crapo brown
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proposal. >> without objection. sen. wyden: one last question. the obama administration supported finding an end to fire borrowing. every year more and more of the budget is used to pay for wildfires, leaving forests in poor health and at an even greater risk of catastrophic wildfires. i would like to get for the record, because i don't think you have all been asked about this is the trump , administration's position, the same as the obama administration's position on this? you support ending fire borrowing and finding a way to address the rising 10 year average? senators need to know whether the trump administration on that issue is willing to support the obama administration's position. chief christiansen: thank you. yes, the administration is absolutely committed to finding a solution that addresses the increasing ten year average as well as ends the practice of fire transfer.
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sen. wyden: i'm going to say that you pretty much in sync with the obama administration on that. chief christiansen: this administration supports the fire funding fix. sen. wyden: you have a problem saying you're pretty much in sync with the previous administration? i don't want to staff to start over. i want to work in a bipartisan way. chief christiansen: i would say it's a continuation of as you suggested, a long-standing issue that we don't need to resolve. sen. wyden: thank you. >> senator lee. sen. lee: thank you mr. chairman. thanks to all of you being here. miss christensen. i would like to start with you. utah recently suffered a catastrophic 70,000-acre wildfire in the dixie national forest in southern utah. fire destroyed a total of 21 structures, including 13 homes. it also resulted a 13 day evacuation of the nearby town of
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brianhead. we got two 13 numbers there. it sounds like a lot of bad luck, and it is, but there's more than bad luck at play here. i think there is some policy at play that needs to be looked at. dhe brian had -- brianhea fire began on private land. it was no surprise to residents once the fire started it spread into the dixie national forest, which was soon engulfed in flames. i've heard frequently from local leaders in the area who described this entire area as a tinderbox. this was a wildfire waiting to happen. in part because it was so overrun with dead, infested timber, this area was just full of hazardous fuels.
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a fire of this magnitude in this area was as a result, all but inevitable. largely because of poor management. you mentioned that the forest service treats about two million acres of forestland each year for hazardous fuel treatment. chief christiansen: three million, senator. sen. lee: which is great that 3 million, you treating three million. it's my understanding only about 200,000 of that involves timber harvest. is that right? chief christiansen: that's correct. sen. lee: i think this ought to be examined. beyond its use in wildfire prevention, this also carries other benefits with it as well. this is a reliable, renewable source of income from a lot of these communities where there's a lot of forestland.
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i consistently hear from county commissioners and other officials in my state and local residents in many of these affected areas. that forest management policies make it harder to harvest timber. even where doing so, as i am certain would have been the case here, would result in significant mitigation against the risk of wildfires. what can you tell me? what is the forest service doing or planning to promote timber harvesting as a mutually beneficiary means of preventing wildfires and reducing hazardous fuels? chief christiansen: thank you, senator. the forest service is very committed and working aggressively on increasing the scale and the pace of our forest management and fuels treatment. we are working to streamline our
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environmental processes and working with others on new tools and ways to do that. the bottom line is the community engagement. the collaboration early. secretary purdue said it's a priority. we absolutely are on board that we engage communities that would be the environmental community, industry. those that jobs and livelihoods are dependent on these forest resources early in project proposals. that's how we can get to an agreement. we can get the work done in the clearance. now, as you know, more and more of resources have gone to wildfire fighting. increasing ten year average has gone up. that's 270 million out of our nonfire budget that the forest service no longer has available.
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we do have a resource constraint as well. we're both working on early collaborations, getting -- we get communities to buy in and that we can support projects. working on efficiencies in our environmental reviews. with your help working on a long term fire funding fix so that we have the resources to do just what you said. sen. lee: with timber harvesting is part of that? chief christiansen: absolutely. sen. lee: thank you very much. my time is expired. sen. murkowski: senator barrasso. sen. barrasso: this is a question i will ask couple of different witnesses to comment on. wildfires burn across the country. the need to take swift action to improve forest health and prevent another year of catastrophic wildfires is undeniable. as these fires become more frequent, more severe, more costly, wildlife habitat is destroyed. air and watershed quality is
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compromised and human life is threatened. humans of acres requires immediate treatment. this number will continue to rise if we don't approve active management. what additional tools do you need to be more proactive in forest management and enhance some of this cross-boundary coordination i believe is critical? >> thank you senator. looking across the department of the interior we have four , bureaus. three have active timber programs, various sizes and scales. i have to gather from them and provide it to you for the record. but in general, the things that really improve and increase our actions on the ground is this notion of collaboration. it's empowering our managers, our local leaders to engage to work crouse cross boundary. chief christiansen: thank you,
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senator. i will say that the tools afforded in 2014, good neighbor, authority, insect and disease designations, those really been helpful because we look at the landscape scale, we're able to work with our partners who has the resources at the right time , whether it's state partner or other partner, or or tribal community. the fixes wee have need and a good neighbor authority, continuing those cross boundary authorities and in state and private, for example, we are able to easily have authorities to work with state partners, so they can institute leverage funds we are able to give them. that is the thanks and let's keep on working on those tools. >> anything you like to offer? mr. maisch: yes.
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i was a categorical exclusions are a tool that can be used, and increase in the size of those types of inclusions would certainly be helpful, as vickie discussed. good neighbor authority is a very strong tool that should be expanded dramatically. is really a comanagement concept, where the states and federal agencies can work together. the forest plans themselves, as they are amended or updated need to reflect the timber , management as way to achieve the objectives we are talking about here today. and right now, in my opinion, a lot of plans do not. sen. barrasso: miss christensen you repeated the statistics. 480 million acres across the country in need of some sort of treatment. 480 million acres are in elevated risk of catastrophic wildfire. if the four service meets their
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gold this year, the agencies are going to treat only 2.2 million of the 480 million acres. i appreciate the barriers the forest service is facing and other land management agencies are facing. the fact remains that failing to address overgrown forest and wide swath of trees, made many of the forest a ticking time bomb. just yesterday, the national interagency fire center, updated significant wild land fire potential outlook amount for august. i know it has already been shown today. a significant portion of wyoming is at above normal risk for a catastrophic wildfire event. how do reports from groups like the international fire center, and data from state agencies how , do they factor into the forest service's planning for future fuel treatments? chief christiansen: thank you, senator. i definitely agree with your sentiments. just a slight correction. our estimate is 480 million
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acres of all forest in the nation are at risk of catastrophic wildfire. of that 94 million are national , forest system land. we're all in this together. we still have big challenge as a nation. the analytics that we've been about risks, and the projections that we have from our researchers on the fire risk, we can tart to marry those -- start to marry those together better. weather is the factor that goes into the three month projections. unfortunately, they're not so good to be able to project weather out over a two year period. we do have projections where we have come from and where we think we will remain in drought and otherwise. with the thanks to the additional has dozen fuel funds from come, we're working with these predictions where highest
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hazardous areas are and where there are state and federal and tribal governments that are ready to get with us. we're not sending these dollars out in a formula fashion. we're really investing them highest priority. sen. barrasso: thank you madam chair. let me conclude by saying our forest is diverse ecosystems that need immediate attention. sending overgrown stands and removing dead and down timber will reduce fire risk. we must make sure we're spending federal dollars responsibly. i recognize coordination along local, state, and federal agencies as a key to success. i'm concerned some offices like the one mr. rice represents duplicate functions of more successful agencies. i will submit questions on the record. i look forward to hearing from you, mr. rice, from some of
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those responses. thank you. sen. murkowski: thank you. senator franken. sen. franken: thank you, madam chair. first of all, our hearts go out to the two firefighters that were lost in montana and hearts with their families. also with those who are still fighting. the chief of the forest service and i have discussed the impact of climate change on wildfire several times. this committee, as chief tidwell shared, forest service scientists believe that climate change is one of the major factors in driving the longer fire seasons that we're seeing with wildfires that are larger and more intense. fire seasons are now on average nearly 80 days longer than they
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were in 1970. wildfires burn twice as many acres today as they did in 1980 first in 1970. do any of the panelist disagree with the forest service scientist that climate change is driving longer and more intense fire seasons? anybody disagree? ok. do any of the panelists disagree that we are seeing significant costs associated with fighting these fires? despite this administration's attempt to deny climate science and muscle experts, we are already seeing the impacts of climate change. we're seeing longer and more intense seasons that have real consequences to the ecosystems and rural communities, and
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driving up costs will continue to get worse if we do not take decisive action. these increases in fire fighting costs are less funding for other important programs. fire borrowing. forest service has 39% fewer staff in nonfire positions today than it did less than 20 years ago. this is seriously impacting forest management in minnesota and elsewhere. it's even impacting work to reduce wildfire risk through hazardous fuels treatment. miss christensen, you say fuel treatments can save two to three times in avoided cost of fire -- fighting fires down the road. can you talk about how fuel treatment can ultimately save money? chief christiansen: thank you,
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senator. yes. that study is a study done in the sierras, in nevada, the watershed. one dollar spent on hazardous treatment could save two dollars to of avoided cost of fire three dollars suppression. there's some other studies locally. flagstaff, they have also done this. the metrics might be slightly different in different fuel types, but there is a breaking point where roughly we're able to treat 20% to 40% of a landscape that we believe are our suppression costs will be reduced significantly. exposure to firefighters and all the other stuff -- sen. franken: the evidence is
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that it can pay for itself or come close to paying for itself. or maybe more than pay for itself. when chief tidwell came before the committee in june to defend the president's budget, we discussed possibility of hazardous fuel management for -- supplying biomass for district energy projects or combined heat and power plants. especially in the wildland urban interface. in minnesota, however, these types of plants are having trouble competing in the electricity markets. are there ways to incentivize use of hazardous fuels to generate electricity? in other words, can we recognize the co-benefit of wildfire risk reduction in these cases, especially on the wildland urban interphase so we're not looking at losing homes.
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anyone have any thoughts on this? this is something i think we can -- i know the chairwoman and i have sponsored combined heat and power. other ways to do energy projects using hazardous fuels. anyone have any thoughts? >> yes, senator. certainly, alaska has a bit of advantage because of the cold climate. projects like that actually pay their way. they don't need further incentives. it's primarily for space heating. we do a fuel mitigation work around the communities. the communities actually do the work with sometimes nonprofit or private business, and provide that fuel directly to the school
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or the other entity that has heating needs and these boilers systems provide the heat for the community. the galena project is a classic example. if there are 26 different buildings on a heat loop that are heated entirely from biomass around the town. it's great example. there's only one example in alaska where electric is -- electricity is produced very low level, but it provides needs for the school when the boilers are operating. sen. franken: you can also use it to cool. this is great in electricity. i know i'm out of time. i want to end with a comment. in light of what miss christiansen is saying, when is clearing hazardous waste with pay for itself or more than pay for itself. on top of that, if we give some incentives to do district energy, to do energy projects in the wildland urban interphase to
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-- interface to save homes, so we don't have to lose homes it , seems to me that it is a win-w to workand i would like with the committee on moving forward with those types of incentives to have those projects. thank you. sen. murkowski: thank you, senator franken. i think the example mr. maisch has given is a small very one, discreet and remote area. certainly demonstrates the but itcertainly demonstrates the viability. look forward working with you. senator king. sen. king: thank you. i never thought i would have a chance to share this bit knowledge. but one of our former state foresters informed me, smoky bear doesn't have a middle name. his middle name is not the. it's smoky bear. >> that is absolutely correct, senator. to say that.wanted
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i want to clarify that misperception. never thought i will have a chance to get that straight. i would like to ask for some research. i don't know exactly where it should be. to compare fire and frequency and extend across the nation. controlling for climate and species. what i'm getting at is this. maine is the most forested state in the country. we have issues with forest fires, but nothing like the magnitude we see out west. when i talked to my forestry people in maine, they say the solution is clear. our forest land is privately owned and intensively managed. in the west, it is federally owned, and not intensively managed. there's not enough forestry being practiced. i would like to see data that will either verify that or refute it. i think it will be very
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if science can't control things like climate and species and other differences, to try to isolate the issue of intensity of forest management as playing a role. everything i have read is that the real problem in the west is that there is too much fuel. if there is more intensive forestry practice, the federal government will get more revenue, economies will benefit, and i believe we will have seen less forest fires. the cheapest fire of all is the one that doesn't occur. can you help us on the research here? chief christiansen: senator king, i appreciate your observations. i don't have any research in my back pocket to share with you, but i do understand -- and we can certainly look at that. i'm sure we may have something.
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i was a former state forester for 30 years of the state of washington and the state of arizona. i partnered with the forest service for my -- sen. king: you probably know my former colleague susan bell, the first female state forrester in america. she was the one who told me about smoky bear. chief christiansen: yes. my point is our research does , suggest that there's 480 million acres across the nation 's forests. there's about 773 million acres of forest in this nation that have some kind of risk of uncharacteristic wildfire. 94 million acres are national forest system lands. there are other lands that are at risk. but the practices of fuels management and how that relates to wildland fire risk in
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ecosystems and, terrain and fire weather patterns, i think we do have studies about that. not necessarily comparing maine to the western u.s. me, king: i was thinking of and new england generally. chief christiansen: we'll have a look. sen. king: i think if you could isolate them what the factors are, it would be important either verify what my foresters in maine and private sector have been telling me for years or not, but it may be that part of what we need to talk about is breaking down some of the barriers to more intensive, sustainable forestry on the western lands. that's all i have. thank you. sen. murkowski: thank you, senator king. to follow, iasto: am a senator from nevada, and senator king and i just had this conversation. this is to mr. rice and ms.
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christiansen. can you talk a little bit about sheet grass? nevada is one of the most in curled states because of this statese -- imperiled because of this invasive species. now in the state of nevada when we had an incredible snow pack. we had now beautiful green hill and mountains, now it's dry and it's turning into fuel. what we're seeing in the wildfires in what you saw on that map in northern nevada. i want to open it up and just talk a little bit about this cycle of fire in cheek grass. >> thank you, senator. the states that are using ecosystems are incredibly fragile and diverse ecosystems we have throughout the great basin and surrounding states.
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what happens from where i'm at, looking at how wildfires interacts in that environment, historically without cheek grass, -- cheat grass, the sage clumps would be the natural break, because it is not a continuous field that grows. cheat grass fills the gaps so it ends up being carrying fuel to perpetuate wildfires in large proportions across the great basin. and the department of the interior, we spent the last several years, and several years even prior to me being in this role, focusing on priorities in the great basin and addressing cheat grass. in terms of doing rehabilitation work for large fires, one of the most recent i can talk about is .he soto fire estimated near $60 million to rehabilitate the landscape. 700,000 acres.
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there's a whole myriad of applications that are being tested so we can learn, what can we actually do to address the cheatgrass problem? a fires necessarily problem, it is more of a cheatgrass problem. masto: do you have the budget that you need? this administration is cutting back on the resources necessary to engage in these types of management to prevent these fires that we're seeing. mr. rice to look at the budget, : the way that we allocate across different bureaus in the department of the interior, there are balancing departments. there's four bureaus. once we start looking externally with our partners, counties, states, even in areas where we are jointly addressing issues with the four service it ends , up, we have to make tradeoffs.
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we have to look at making those decisions as we have priorities. sen. cortez masto: that's my concern. as you well know, nevada over 70% is managed by a federal agency. back to the chairwoman's concerns the interaction between , those federal agencies and state and local agencies it's so important how we manage this. my concern will always be tearing down any of barriers and utilizing best practices to make sure we're doing the most that we can to protect that land and prevent wildfires and giving you the resources a you need. -- that you need. that is something i will be very cognizant about. i'm running how of time. let me just touch on one other thing. i was just up in northern nevada, nevada is one of the sites for testing of the uav's. i was stead reno airport. actually there, while they were flying the drones able to manage the cameras and interact and operate the drones it's
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, incredible. they're working with fire departments and services to bring new technology to the assistance in fire management. i'm curious, what are the barriers? what barriers are you seeing, if any, here at the federal level the newvent using technology? rice: thank you. looking at the uas unmanned aircraft system and how we're integrating them, the first step is we've cleared this hurdle is working with the f.a.a. and to have clearances and have the required codes and different things need to fly in those type s of situations. the other areas that we're addressing is having to train pilots, the actual technology. and then what type of data are we capturing and how are we managing that on the back end?
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the other piece i would add, as we are looking at integrating this technology into current operations, it is plug and play, but not plug, play, and replace right away. in many instances where we have aircraft, weor don't stop one and begin the other. there needs to be this layer of overlap where we have the testing rights and research. the number one priority is to ensure that the safety of the firefighters is taken care of. there is that over that time. whether that is one or two fire andons to get it right apply the assets, that will take a little bit of time. senator: thank you. sen. murkowski: senator hirono.
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hirono:. thank you. ms. christiansen, i'm interested in the role that education plays in wildfire prevention. your testimony referenced a story in florida that they -- the benefit to cost ratio was as much as 35-1. wildfire risk is very high in hawaii. some people may not inc. so, but a greater percentage of hawaii's land area is subject to higher risk of wildfire than the 16 westernmost u.s. states. it's a huge issue. told 84% are'm caused by human action, but in hawaii it's 98%. ,obviously, educating people is really important to prevent this. for example, there are programs
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we could have for children, especially to get them educated at a young age on things to do or not do. the national park service centennial had a program called every kid in the park. it really enabled whole new generation of young people to understand the importance of our public land. i'm wondering whether you have and the forest service youth programs a would educate children on wildfire prevention. maybe you can think of something like every kid preventing wildfire programs in 2019. what are some of your thoughts on educating young people? senator, youansen: can really get me started here. let me try to be brief. we have a robust conservation education program in the forest service. bear firewith smokey prevention program. as i said in my opening remarks,
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smokey bear will be 73 next year, and he is one of the most recognized characters, as well as his slogan, only you can prevent wildfires. we have absolutely have tiering what age groups we to. have tool kits for parents and teachers. it will take you to discover the website. it's another website that we manage. it's not just to get folks to the national forest or national park. but discover a forest where you're at. whether you're in an urban area or rural area. it might be a local park, state park, open area. there are many opportunities. sen. hirono: i'm glad in you're doing that. i'm wondering as you collaborate with state and other stakeholders, do you know if these tools being utilized extensively or every state?
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>> yes. smoky bear, we're co-parents. we're co-parents for smoky bear for the last 73 years. they have access to all the programs. we have a joint council that governs smoky. also the discover the forest campaigns. all the access is with and through others. for every kid in the park, it was to celebrate the national centennial, but all the federal agencies have offered the same passes. we really work cannot have the public or children kn batterieso boundaries. sen. hirono: i do have a question about hazardous fuels
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to mr. rice. you note importance of hazardous fuel management, specifically identifying how to control invasive weeds, which is a huge problem in hawaii. my question is, you did note the use of technology during wildfire events, can you briefly describe the department's use of technology for prevention to identify fire prone, invasive species for removal before a wildfire starts? we have a lot of invasive species in hawaii including a lot that are just hazardous fuels. mr. rice going thank you, senator. the way i would begin by looking at this, over the last year, department of interior, bureaus within the department, there's been hundreds of flights of uas's that have been for various activities.
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some have been testing on low capabilities. others have been testing on data elevation, mapping, infrared. just the different types of sensors that can go with it. it's been used, it hasn't been deployed full heartedly. it is being looked at in all the different areas. within the department of the interior there's an aviation , office. my counterpart director there is leading the development of all of those activities. then they are executed by each of the bureaus. land management, national park service, fish and wildlife across the board. ,sen. hirono: so i should check , to see whether these unmanned or these drones being used in hawaii to identify areas where invasive pieces will be fire hazard? mr. rice: i would be happy to find out the specifics.
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sen. >> i appreciated the question from senator cortez masto about andlimitations on the uavs recognize still that you have got some technological issues you are dealing with. battery, as i understand reading through your testimony, you have a two-hour -- batteries , onetwo hours to recharge .as a range of a half-mile you are still limited to range a sight which means you can only do this during the day. in alaska in the summertime, we got the benefit of 24 hours up there, but in other places you
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have more limited application. also, when you're in the thick of a fire, it's pretty dark in there with smoke. where i am going with this is, the innovation within this exciting area of application for uav's, we need to push some of this out and it will allow us to do more. i'll direct this question to you, dr. miller. you've been engaged in the research. in addition to developing better uav systems that will allow us greater opportunities, what else is on the horizon? you mentioned the mapping. what is new and innovative that we might be looking to that can be utilized as another jewel in
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the toolbox. -- another tool in the toolbox. dr. miller: one of my colleagues dr. nancy french recently won an award they'll make sure there's connectivity for the firefighters and bear team. they'll have mobile to create faster ways to get all the new information that's coming in. i am looking forward to using my database with uav's. at the moment, it uses earth observation data from satellites. there's no reason it could not come from mapping from the uavs as well. senator murkowski: i don't recall who made mention that we have these infrared cameras that are in place. i think of the alaska example. which is so huge. we're so big. we're talking in terms of
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millions of acres rather than thousands. you mentioned the internet and the connectivity that's a dream for us. most of these remote areas where we deal with the fires. what more can you do? you can't hope that you put these sensors or these cameras in the right place and get lucky. you mentioned, ms. christiansen, i think it is nine out of 10 force fires are started by man. firese out of 10 forest are started by man. we can pinpoint those out spots. but in alaska, most of our fires are lightning strikes. where else do you see this going ? you'd -- itart out will start out. i'll give you an example in oklahoma. oklahoma is working with the national weather service in geo 16 satellite. they piloted a project this year. it gives you potential size. it gives you coordinates and probability of error.
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whether it is a false attention or not. it is still a very new effort and they happen to be a state that's pioneering that nws. there could be application for in other locations. as the technology is further refined and the algorithms to do the detections are refined and tested. another example is in cal fire. they have a great application. it's an app that's available to improve public safety. it came out this year. you can register as a member of the public to be notified in your county if there's an incident that you need to be made aware of this. it's like reverse 911. it's an application. you can allow it to track you if you are traveling around state of california, it will send you notices more any areas that might have an incident that's unfolding. there is new technology out there. lot of it's just pushing it out
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to the agencies said they can start using it. with workingwski: with the f.a.a. and dealing with the whole line of sight issue, do we have greater latitude in alaska through our uav center of excellence up on the north slope? we have gotten permission to do testing that is beyond line of sight because of where we are. are we able it utilize any of a -- utilize any of that with the uav's that we're using to help us address the fire issues? >> yes, to answer your question, we are still restricted that line of sight or an observer in radio communications with the pilot. you can kind of tear it out further if you have someone a can observe the uav and communicate back to the pilot. that's how we're doing it currently. i think that will involve as people become more comfortable with the safety aspects with
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using these types of tools. >> lot going on. did you want to add anything? i would add, the faa weather cams all through the state of alaska, being a pilot, i did this numerous times. if you are out in western alaska and you need to see what is going back into anchorage. -- that type of example exists all across the country. whether it's street cams, recreational cams. being able to learn those -- being able to leverage those different data streams is an option that we need to explore. we're talking about what we have and what we use. we need to leverage those investments. that is the first place. another place is within some of the federal agencies, especially in dod, department of army have
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smartphone devices. smartphone software that allows data sharing rapidly. right now it is android-based. it is not on iphone, but other types of phones. that's another example of ways that we can start managing technology better and building off each other's investment. thank you.kowski: i'm going to have to go to the floor. we got a vote coming up quickly. i'll ask senator cantwell to close out the hearing and give you all my appreciation. know that we want to work with you as we address these issues of fire management and how we deal with our wildfires around the nation. thank you. >> thank you. mr. rice, i want to follow up -- as director of office of wild land fire and your comments just now about use of technologies out there. i'm aware of this u.s.a. today article by robert will
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about u.s. wildlife service presented -- i'm reading from article, presented second annual national fire safety award to bart wry who was -- he helped direct a lost firefighter to safety during a prescribed fire. rice suggested to fire crew on foot to carry gps transmitter collars like those worn by hunting dogs so that up to ten resources can be tracked realtime by a burn boss on a single hand receiver device. if this is available today and what was just said about the drones, why not combine these technologies today to give firefighters more safety and security as they deal just these unbelievable conditions that can change so quickly? >> senator, it's a good idea. when secretary zinke came on
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board, we walked him through their operations and how we have incident command system, one of the first things that he said to me was, figure out how to keep track of our firefighters in a better way. it's something we're looking at. this references your earlier question. we are supportive of looking at it. we don't know what that right tool is yet. with any number of tens of thousands of firefighters that can be out in the field during a fire season, we want to have the right solution. that's plug and play for anybody that shows up on a fire. just like the nomax that shows up. we want the technology to be interoperable. senator cantrell: given the fire map and where we are, it is just so scary. now i can see that it's further into eastern washington and then the previous map that was out a few months ago.
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few years ago, people said to us, you're going to be at the epicenter. boy, were we. i'm just saying with this level of the west under these conditions, why not -- if it's so easy to go get some now, why not let the flexibility and the suggestion for this fire season be there? all i'm saying is, the reason i'm coming back to you on this, is your first answer, it's kind of, we're going to look at it and see what we can do. these as you said, are toolses that we can put in place today. you can say that voluntarily we give the ok for the these to be used. in this case, a u.s. fish and wildlife service individual received an award for the innovation of it. i would just say that the reason i'm working with senator gardner, i came to the senate
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shortly after the storm king fire that killed so many people. then we have the 30-mile fire which killed several individuals in our state. to have a loss in life two years ago, it's just a reminder that these conditions can get out of control so quickly. if we can put the firefighters, , in of them are young contact with someone who has better visibility, i think it would be so helpful to us. also helpful in attacking the hot spots of the fire as well. knowing when we can pull back or using other resources. what about right now just moving forward on voluntary basis to might sure that's clear to people. if they wish to, they can? >> senator, it is being used. i apologize for not being clear. we do have folks in fish and wildlife service in the national
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park service, in the bureau of land management that are using this technology. we're learning from that. we are looking at different ways we can apply it across the enterprise. that doesn't preclude our staff from using them. senator cantwell: anybody can use them now. we can use them in the northwest if we wanted to? >> the staff that are local will work through their local office. this leads to a broader question, at the department level, we are empowering our line officers to make decisions in the field. in order to do that -- senator cantwell: it got so bad, we called out the national guard. we were taking volunteers from -- we had not done that in our state in a long time. i know ms. christiansen worked on that before. listen, northwest loves technology and it loves to keep pushing the envelope. don't hold us back to getting in the marketplace
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this summer, if we can. thank you. senator king. senator king: i'm all set. i wanted to thank the witnesses. thank you for your work. look forward to continuing to work on this problem with you. appreciate it. >> senator cortez masto? i wouldcortez masto: also like to thank all witness and chair for having this hearing so timely. as we said at the beginning we used up 50% of our resources . this map says it all. we have to keep ahead of this changing conditions which are giving us more volatile, more territory, more really economic and human loss to our nation that we need to deal with. thank you all for your innovative idea. we're adjourned.
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