WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — The Chief of the U.S. Forest Service told lawmakers Wednesday climate change has been a key source for the growing number of wildfires on the west coast.
Secretary Vicki Christiansen testified before a Senate Committee on the impacts Americans are experiencing from climate change.
“The crisis results from a changing climate,” Christiansen said Wednesday. “It induces severe wildfires, droughts, insects, disease and invasive species.”
Senator Lisa Murowski (R-AK) echoed Christiansen’s thoughts by saying the recent wildfire fire to break out in her home state of Alaska highlighted the growing problem.
“[Alaska] is a very wet, almost wetlands environment in many parts of it,” she said. “So it speaks to, I think, some of the impacts that we’re seeing from climate change.”
The forest service also is faced with a personnel problem because of low pay, according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Starting salaries at the forest service are about half of the $70,000 salaries offered for fighting fires by the state of California.
“California is paying with 19 million acres that burned last year,” said Feinstein. “Ten thousand structures burned and half of those were homes.”
Senator Jeff Merkely added that the agency needs to retain personnel year round to meet the basic needs of forest restoration.