Letter: Rider ruins appropriations bill
Right now, Congress is negotiating the funding bill for this fiscal year, and the health of our nation’s forests and the wildlife that depend upon them is at stake. Congress has not acted to fix our broken wildfire funding system, which is quickly depleting the U.S. Forest Service’s budget and undermining restoration work and maintenance of critical habitat.
Senators Bennet and Gardner are thankfully on the same page regarding this concern and have cosponsored the “Wildfire Disaster Funding Act,” which provides a comprehensive solution to the crisis and is currently part of the FY2018 appropriations negotiations.
But Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is blocking this comprehensive bipartisan wildfire funding solution by insisting on controversial and harmful logging riders for national forests in Alaska, including the Tongass National Forest. The lands targeted are federal lands that belong to Coloradans and all Americans; they include ancient trees — some over 800 years old — and unfractured forests critical for many species, including Sitka black-tailed deer, northern goshawks, brown and black bears, and the rare Alexander Archipelago wolf.
Senators Bennet and Gardner, this is bad forest policy holding up good forest policy. Please stand up and oppose these Alaska timber provisions that will harm the Tongass rainforest and are blocking the critical comprehensive wildfire funding fix that you have both supported.
These riders attached to must-pass bills are one way special interests get things passed, but they are a dismay to me. I have written and called their offices many times about how wrong-spirited it is to attach unrelated riders to bills. If you feel likewise, you might express your thoughts there too. It’s so important that we speak. Senators Bennet and Gardner’s bill relates to funding, but Murkowski’s rider does not.
We, as citizens who care about wildlife and wild places, need to contact our senators’ offices right now and relay our thoughts. This funding bill, final appropriations bill, will be voted on by March 23 to avoid government shutdown. Please tell our senators their bill is an important one, but not with Murkowski’s additions.