O’Halleran addresses wildfire risk with Wildfire Mitigation and Management Act

June 29, 2021
In The News

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Along with bills addressing infrastructure, tribal health and community development, U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D – AZ) is discussing long and short term strategies for problems caused by wildfires in Arizona.

Currently, O’Halleran is touring areas affected by wildfires and is working with the Red Cross, county officials and various agencies to meet the needs of those affected by wildfires in northern Arizona. He also plans to hold a telephonic town hall meeting June 28 to discuss recent fires.

O’Halleran does have a wildfire resource page for the public to find information about specific type of aid they may need. Additionally, the Arizona Emergency Network can be reached for questions about fires at (928) 421-4579.

For longer term solutions, O’Halleran and Rep. John Curtis (R-UT), members of the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, introduced the Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission Act of 2021, a bipartisan and bicameral legislation to establish a commission of federal and non-federal stakeholders — including city and county level representation — to study and recommend fire prevention, mitigation, management and rehabilitation policies for forests and grasslands.

U.S. Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) introduced companion legislation in the Senate last week.

O’Halleran recently issued a statement saying this year’s fire season in Arizona is shaping up to be one of the worst on record — several extremely dangerous wildfires are spreading without containment across the First Congressional District.

“With their homes and businesses at risk season after season, Arizona families need solutions. Our bipartisan bill to establish a commission of stakeholders to recommend fire prevention, mitigation, and rehabilitation policies for forests and grasslands will help to identify and implement these needed solutions before another deadly fire season burns more of the Southwest,” he said.

Bill background

Last year, nearly 60,000 fires burned across 10 million American acres, and more than 53,000 of which were human-caused fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Council.

Current federal wildland fire policy is a patchwork of legislation and agency guidance across departments and jurisdictions, further complicated by mixed land ownership.

The bill would require a review of the nation’s wildland firefighting strategy, accompanied by specific policy recommendations, by a commission made up of the nation’s top experts, including state and local stakeholders.

O’Halleran also sent a letter to the U.S. Forest Service urging immediate federal deployment of hotshot ground crews and air support in coordination with the city of Flagstaff and additional fire personnel and equipment to ensure that properties, businesses, homes and, potentially, lives are saved.

O’Halleran said because there are so many fires in so many states, it is becoming more difficult because the land is the driest it has been in 1,200 years.

“I hope people stay safe and prevent forest fires throughout Arizona,” he said.

Infrastructure

O’Halleran also supports the proposed bipartisan infrastructure bill that is being discussed on the Congressional level right now, which may have bi-partisan support but will still need to pass both houses before going to the president to become law.

O’Halleran hopes it becomes law by mid-July.

Three proposals that would benefit CD1 if passed are:

*Electric bus infrastructure, $1.5 million Flagstaff;

*Lone Tree corridor, $8 million, Flagstaff. This would fund a bridge and a road so people could get from one side of Flagstaff to the other.

*U.S. Route 89 Lake Powell roundabout, $5 million, Page. This intersection has had a number of serious accidents and O’Halleran said this would make the road much safer.

Tribal Health

O’Halleran co-sponsored the Tribal Health Data Improvement Act, which passed the House June 23. The measure was cosponsored by Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin from Oklahoma. The measure would address chronic challenges faced by tribal nations and tribal epidemiology centers in accessing federal health care and public health data systems.

O’Halleran said tribal communities suffered the worst of COVID-19.

“As we continue to address this ongoing pandemic, it is critical that sovereign tribal nations are able to easily access the public health data they need to make the best decisions to keep their citizens safe and healthy,” he said.

The bill will go to the Senate for consideration.

For the People Act

O’Halleran supports the For the People Act, which would address voting rights for Native Americans and all Americans. This bill has passed the House, but not the Senate.

O’Halleran said if this bill becomes law it will give all eligible Americans the ability to vote.

“It is important for indigenous people to have the right to vote,” he said.

Affordable Care Act upheld at Supreme Court

O’Halleran was happy with the Supreme Court ruling to not rescind any part of the Affordable Care Act. (ACA)

“This is another step in the right direction for people throughout America to have health insurance,” he said.

Community Development for CD1

O’Halleran announced June 18 that the U.S. Treasury has awarded a total of $400,000 to two community development institutions in Arizona’s CD1 to support economic development relief following COVID 19.

The Hopi Credit Association and San Carlos Apache Tribe Relending Enterprise each received $200,000 to respond to economic challenges created by COVID 19, which allows them in turn to make loans to people.