March 09, 2005

Delegation Secures Money For Wildfire And Cricket Infestations

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Legislation containing vital funds to fight catastrophic wildfires and control Mormon cricket infestations in Idaho is now on its way to the President.The House and Senate both approved the $3.54 billion FY 2004 Legislative Branch Appropriations Conference Report that included $320 million for both fighting wildfires and completing preventive projects. Due to prolonged drought and a hot fire season, many agencies were scrambling to fund necessary fire fighting activities. Several agencies were forced to take funds from other accounts to cover the costs of protecting property and resources, in turn depleting money for important prevention projects. To help agencies fund firefighting and fuel load reduction, this additional funding was added into the Senate version of the bill and then the conference report. Mormon crickets have emerged as a devastating annual problem for farmers, land managers, property owners, and even to those traveling Southern Idaho's roads. In recent years, the area of cricket invasion has increased as much as 100 times above normal years, and populations are reaching ten times the seasonal average due to ongoing drought conditions. The Mormon cricket is responsible for havoc wrecked on croplands and consuming thousands of acres of critical range, which directly serve wildlife such as deer and upland birds. The bill earmarked $20 million to be evenly divided between Idaho, Nevada, and Utah for suppression and control of the continued Mormon cricket infestation on public and private lands."This is a big boost to our states limited resources to deal with what has been the constant and serious problem of Mormon crickets, as well as funding the annual battles our land management agencies face in fighting wildfires." said Senator Larry Craig, a member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. "Suppression of these insects will benefit our farmers, ranchers, wildlife, and the overall quality of Idaho lands. Providing wildfire monies will help repay all of the funds the agencies were forced to expend fighting this seasons catastrophic wildfires and rehabilitating forests devastated by fire."Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said, "This conference report will make a significant impact in both areas. Wildfires are going to continue to be a concern in the West, and reducing fuel loads is just one way we can work to prevent the devastation that can be caused. Additionally, Idaho growers and ranchers have experienced significant crop loss due to the menace posed by Mormon crickets, and it is essential Idaho to receive the resources necessary to control these pests. I am pleased that funds for both concerns have been included in the bill and know that it will make a difference in Idaho.""The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other firefighting agencies must have the resources to not only fight catastrophic fire, but to complete on the ground projects that reduce wildfire risk in the future. This money will help them do both and I'm pleased this money was included in the conference report. We can't stop catastrophic wildfires, but we can manage it by reducing fuel loads through controlled burns and thinning," Congressman Mike Simpson, a member of the House Appropriations Committee said. "For the last four years, Idaho has seen one of the worst cricket infestations in history. The insects have destroyed thousands of acres in rangeland and crops. By sharing this money with other neighboring states, Idaho can take a coordinated effort to reduce crop damage.""Land managers trying to keep up with this year's wildfires have been forced to rob Peter to pay Paul, at no fault of their own. As a result, we've put ourselves in the hole in efforts to treat the forests and reduce fuel loading that will contribute to catastrophic wildfires down the road. And that doesn't even begin to address the money that's been drawn from accounts intended for environmental projects, recreation and other purposes," Otter said. "The people of Idaho will see a direct benefit from this appropriation. And it will result in long-term savings for everyone."Once the bill reaches the President's desk, he has 10 days to sign or veto the legislation or it automatically becomes law. # # # # #Lucinda Willits Press Secretary Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson 802 W. Bannock #600 Boise, ID 83702 208-334-1953 phone 208-334-9533 fax