Merkley, Bipartisan Colleagues Push to Include Support for National Guard Firefighting Efforts in Upcoming Funding Bill

Merkley, Bipartisan Colleagues Push to Include Support for National Guard Firefighting Efforts in Upcoming Funding Bill

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today led a bipartisan group of 14 of his Senate colleagues in pushing leaders of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense to include robust funding in the fiscal year 2022 funding bill for the National Guard to support wildland firefighting efforts in communities across western states, which are already facing severe drought and wildfires.

There are currently more than 12,200 firefighters and support personnel—including members of the National Guard—battling 59 major wildfires in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Alaska, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Montana, and Minnesota.

“In 2020, the West experienced severe drought, which resulted in some of the driest conditions on record. More than 50,000 fires burned 10 million acres with fires lasting well into the fall, destroying homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure. Throughout the summer and fall, National Guard members proved to be pivotal firefighting forces across the West,” the lawmakers wrote.

“As the country struggles to adapt to longer and more severe wildfire seasons, additional resources to train members of the National Guard is critical. Guard members must have the appropriate training and equipment to fulfill their missions and this funding is critical to ensure they are properly prepared,” the lawmakers continued.

In addition to Merkley, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), James Risch (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter is available here and follows below.

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Dear Chairman Tester and Vice Chairman Shelby,

We write to urge you to provide robust funding for the National Guard to support firefighting efforts in communities across the nation, particularly in the West, affected by wildfires in the Fiscal Year 2022 Defense Appropriations bill.

In 2020, the West experienced severe drought, which resulted in some of the driest conditions on record. More than 50,000 fires burned 10 million acres with fires lasting well into the fall, destroying homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure. Throughout the summer and fall, National Guard members proved to be pivotal firefighting forces across the West.

As the country struggles to adapt to longer and more severe wildfire seasons, additional resources to train members of the National Guard is critical. Guard members must have the appropriate training and equipment to fulfill their missions and this funding is critical to ensure they are properly prepared.

As you develop the FY2022 Defense Appropriations bill, robust funding for wildfire training is critical to the National Guard’s ability to protect communities from wildfires. Thank you for considering this request.

Sincerely,