Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to hear testimony on wildfires

The Colville Tribes of Washington suffered heavy damage from the North Star Fire in the fall of 2015. Photo from Facebook

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is holding a hearing on Wednesday to focus on wildfires and federal forest management issues.

Lawmakers will hear from tribal and federal officials about wildfire response and prevention. They also will take testimony on S.3014, the Tribal Forestry Participation and Protection Act.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) introduced the bill on May 26. It authorizes the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior to work more closely with tribes on the management of federal forest lands.

“We need commonsense forest management reform that cuts through the bureaucratic red tape, improves the health of our forests, creates good paying jobs and reduces the risk of catastrophic forest fires,” Daines said in a press release.

The bill applies to federal lands on and near reservations, on lands ceded by treaty and on aboriginal territories that have been recognized by the Indian Claims Commission or the federal courts. Tribal leaders and tribal organizations are supporting the measure.

"The Crow Tribe knows that tribal management of tribal forests is not only best practice, but an important expression of our tribal self-determination," Chairman Darrin Old Coyote of the Crow Tribe wrote in a letter to Daines. "It enhances our ability to stimulate the local tribal economy and provide employment opportunities, and income, for the Tribe as well as individual tribal members."

The hearing takes place immediately following a business meeting at 2:15pm in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. The witness list follows:
Mr. Michael S. Black
Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

Mr. James Hubbard
Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

The Honorable William Nicholson
Board Member, Intertribal Timber Council, Secretary, Colville Business Council, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Coulee Dam, WA

The Honorable Carole Lankford
Council Member, Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, Pablo, MT

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice:
Oversight/Legislative Hearing on "Improving Interagency Forest Management to Strengthen Tribal Capabilities for Responding to and Preventing Wildfires, and S. 3014, a bill to improve the management of Indian forest land, and for other purposes."(June 8, 2016)

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