After one of the most expensive and devastating fire seasons in U.S. history, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is playing political games with critical funding for fighting fires and wildland firefighters in order to pay off her political friends. In response, Western Values Project Action is running print and digital ads holding her accountable.
Senator Murkowski has proposed two budget amendments, also known as riders, that would be tied to critical agency wildland firefighting funds. She is advancing these riders for special interests, who want to log more old growth trees in the Tongass National Forest, which is part of the largest intact temperate rainforest on earth. A logging company in Alaska already spent $34,000 lobbying Congress on the issue in 2017 and the owners contributed $3,000 to Murkowski’s 2016 re-election campaign.
“Maybe, Senator Murkowski has been in Washington too long to remember just how devastating last year’s fire season was for states and communities across the United States,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of the Western Values Project Action. “Playing with funding that supports wildland firefighters and the agencies responsible for fighting those fires could burn a lot of communities.”
The advertisements, running this week, call on Senator Murkowski to protect the firefighters that protect us and ask her to stop playing politics and putting firefighters and communities across the West at risk. The ads prompt the Senator’s constituents to call her and sign a petition.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, almost 10 million acres burned across the U.S. last year, double the 5.5 million acres in 2016, with more than 650,000 acres burned in Alaska. As the devastating fires engulfed near-record acreage last year, firefighting costs skyrocketed to record levels, with the U.S. Forest Service spending over $2.4 billion last season alone.
“The need to find a long-term solution to fighting fires has been in front of Congress for years, and playing a political game for special interests is exactly the wrong thing to do for the firefighters who are on the front lines protecting our communities. We hope less beholden members of Congress prevail in putting these riders out,” said O’Neill.
Also published on Medium.