NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, September 13th, 2021

President Joe Biden touches down in Boise; visits National Interagency Fire Center

Wel­come to the great Pacif­ic North­west, Mr. President!

Today, Joe Biden made his first offi­cial vis­it to Cas­ca­dia as Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, land­ing in Boise, Ida­ho to vis­it the Nation­al Inter­a­gency Fire Cen­ter (NIFC), which is locat­ed adja­cent to Boise Air Teminal/Gowen Field.

“The Pres­i­dent stepped off Air Force One at 11:54 AM at Boise Air­port and was greet­ed by Boise May­or Lau­ren McLean,” the White House press pool report­ed. “They spoke for more than a minute before POTUS [Biden] entered the Beast.”

(For read­ers who don’t know, the Beast is the pres­i­den­tial limousine.)

The press pool loaded into vans at 11:56 AM Moun­tain Time and was rolling to the NIFC about one minute lat­er. At 12:08 PM, the pool was escort­ed into the rig­ging shop of the Smoke­jumpers Loft for the briefing.

“Before the brief­ing began, pool was told that the Boise may­or pre­sent­ed a paint­ing of the Boise foothills for POTUS,” the pool report noted.

Video show­ing the gift is avail­able here.

“POTUS, wear­ing a blue suit, no tie and a mask, sat in the mid­dle of U‑shaped pan­el. Grant Beene, the assis­tant direc­tor for fire and avi­a­tion for the bureau to land man­age­ment, began the brief­ing by wel­com­ing the president.”

The brief­ing ran for about a half hour.

The pool was escort­ed out at rough­ly 12:35 PM Moun­tain Time.

“Col­or: there were para­chutes hang­ing from the walls, as well as mul­ti­ple pieces of taxi­dermy. Antlers were hang­ing to Biden’s right and the coat of a bear to his left. A large para­chute was pinned at the back of the room,” the pool report said.

Video of Pres­i­dent Biden’s arrival in Boise is avail­able from KTVB.

Here is a full tran­script of the Pres­i­den­t’s remarks at NIFC, along with those of NIFC’s Grant Beebe and Ida­ho Gov­er­nor Brad Little:

Remarks by Pres­i­dent Biden in Brief­ing with Fed­er­al and State Fire Agency Officials

Nation­al Inter­a­gency Fire Center
Boise, Idaho
12:08 PM MDT

MR. BEEBE: Mr. Pres­i­dent, on behalf of the wild­land fire com­mu­ni­ty, I’m proud to wel­come you to the Nation­al Inter­a­gency Fire Cen­ter — or NIFC, for short. And we always say NIFC is a place, not an organization.

THE PRESIDENT: (Laughs.)

MR. BEEBE: We’re incred­i­bly proud of it.

Thank you for com­ing. We’re hon­ored you’re the first Pres­i­dent to vis­it in the 50-year his­to­ry of the Fire Cen­ter, and it’s quite an honor.

I’m Grant Beebe. I’m the Bureau of Land Man­age­men­t’s Assis­tant Direc­tor for Fire and Avi­a­tion. And speak­ing for all the NIFC part­ners, I’d like to thank you par­tic­u­lar­ly for being here and for your gen­uine and intense inter­est in wild­land fire management.

I just want to point out: This is a coali­tion of part­ners. We have a team here. We have Nation­al Park Ser­vice, DOD, Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice, Bureau of Indi­an Affairs, Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of State Foresters rep­re­sent­ing the states, FEMA, U.S. Fire Admin­is­tra­tion, and, of course, U.S. For­est Ser­vice, Fish and Wildlife Service.

I think I got them all; some­body will cor­rect me. Oh, and of course, Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice — one of the orig­i­nal part­ners here at NIFC. The incep­tion of this was a For­est Ser­vice, BLM, NOAA, Fish and Wi- — Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice operation.

So, we’re incred­i­bly proud of it. We’re so proud to have you here.

NIFC was cre­at­ed 50 years ago, and it is the orig­i­nal and durable mod­el for inter­a­gency, inter­gov­ern­men­tal coor­di­na­tion. Extreme­ly lengthy, intense, and dam­ag­ing fire sea­sons like the one we’re expe­ri­enc­ing now rein­force the pur­pose of places like this.

Through the hard work, inge­nu­ity, and per­sis­tence of gen­er­a­tions of fire pro­fes­sion­als, wild­fire response across the nation is uni­fied, coop­er­a­tive, and pro­fes­sion­al. And I’ll say that we all stand on the shoul­ders of giants. We inher­it­ed this place, and we’re try­ing to keep it going.

In wild­land fire, there’s no one com­mu­ni­ty, agency, Trib­al orga­ni­za­tion that has enough resources to man­age all of its fires. Fires don’t know juris­dic­tion­al bound­aries, and we try to ignore juris­dic­tion­al bound­aries ourselves.

One of our speak­ers will speak to that particularly.

But the kind of fires we’re expe­ri­enc­ing these days — the kind of long-dura­tion, mas­sive, destruc­tive fires we’ve wit­nessed in recent years in places like Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton, Col­orado, and, unfor­tu­nate­ly, for Gov­er­nor Otter [sic, the cur­rent gov­er­nor is Gov­er­nor Lit­tle] this year, in Ida­ho — they’re teach­ing us that we need to maybe change the way we’re doing business.

At NIFC and at innu­mer­able region­al and local fire coor­di­na­tion cen­ters, the nation’s wild­land fire man­agers join forces, and we direct local, state, Trib­al, fed­er­al fire­fight­ing resources to pro­tect lives and liveli­hoods, prop­er­ty, infra­struc­ture, and vul­ner­a­ble nat­ur­al resources.

Ulti­mate­ly, we all count on help from our part­ners when cri­sis strikes. In years like this, it takes the entire nation­al wild­land fire response appa­ra­tus — from local, rur­al fire depart­ments; Range­land Fire Pro­tec­tion Asso­ci­a­tions; pro­fes­sion­al state, coun­ty, fed­er­al fire­fight­ers; mil­i­tary part­ners — thank good­ness for our mil­i­tary part­ners this year; inter­na­tion­al assis­tance — to man­age fires across our landscape.

I’ll say peo­ple of my age tend to mea­sure fire his­to­ry in terms of fire sea­sons, and many of us who are a lit­tle longer in the tooth think about the Yel­low­stone fires of 1988, of course, and what a calami­tous fire sea­son that was and we were sure that was a once-in-a-life­time occurrence.

THE PRESIDENT: Yep.

MR. BEEBE: I’ll just point out that Yel­low­stone burned about 800,000 acres in the park. And this year, the Dix­ie fire, as you know, is approach­ing about a mil­lion acres itself.

Cal­i­for­nia is set­ting records for the largest fires in his­to­ry. Col­orado set and then reset records for largest fires in his­to­ry. So, we’re enter­ing into a dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ment in fire, and we’re start­ing to think about how we need to change our tac­tics. And we’ll talk about that a lit­tle bit more.

So, I’ll say, final­ly, that anoth­er com­plex, cost­ly, and crit­i­cal wild­land fire year under­scores the nation’s need to recom­mit resources to fire pre­ven­tion, pre­pared­ness, and response. And, frankly, we’re hon­ored that you’re here and that you have made that mea­sure one of your own.

I’d like to pass it on to Gov­er­nor Lit­tle now. I know he’d like to intro­duce you — or to wel­come you to Idaho.

GOVERNOR LITTLE: Thank you, Grant.

Mr. Pres­i­dent, thank you for being here. Grant real­ly put his arms around the all-hands-on-deck in this facil­i­ty. And all these peo­ple that work here is — are a result of years of see­ing what did­n’t work in col­lab­o­ra­tion and what does. And they just get bet­ter at it every year.

I want to talk a lit­tle bit about what we talked — when you host­ed the call with the West­ern gov­er­nors — about two things.

One of them: Thank you for ask­ing these men and women in our fire­fight­ing to get on the fires ear­ly, giv­en the incred­i­ble drought that we have in the West, so that we did­n’t have those fires we need­ed to wor­ry about, along with the ones we had going.

But sec­ond: what we can all do as part­ners — the fed­er­al part­ners — to build a more resilient range and for­est ecosystem.

There’s been a lot of great work done by your agen­cies to — whether it’s shared stew­ard­ship or good neigh­bor. But we know about a third of the forests are at risk of big, cat­a­stroph­ic fires, and we got a lot of work to do.

And besides your — you direct­ing the For­est Ser­vice and the BLM, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice has a role because, so many times, we’ll do a lot of great work, and then it’ll get hung up in court for some­times very minor reasons.

If you can help us do that, to where we can con­tin­ue to get these ful­ly agreed-upon plans imple­ment­ed so that we are not endan­ger­ing these fire­fight­ers when we put them out there because we’ve got forests or — or even range­land con­di­tions where the fuels are just almost impos­si­ble to fight, it would be very appre­ci­at­ed. And all the West­ern gov­er­nors stand ready to work with you and your admin­is­tra­tion on it.

And again, thank you for com­ing to Boise.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Gov, thank you.

I have enjoyed work­ing with the West­ern governors.

I — folks, you know — the press has heard me say this before in a dif­fer­ent con­text — but my col­leagues used to always kid me when I was in the Sen­ate; I’m always quot­ing Irish poets about — when I thought it was appro­pri­ate. And — and I think they thought I was doing it because I was Irish, but I did it because they’re the best poets. But — (laugh­ter).

All kid­ding aside, there’s a line from a famous poem. And I think — I did­n’t think of it, Grant, until you just were speak­ing. And it goes like this: It says, “All is changed, changed utter­ly. A ter­ri­ble beau­ty has been born.” “A Ter­ri­ble beau­ty has been born.”

From the Yel­low­stone fire to today, all has changed in a dras­tic, dras­tic way. I need not tell Robyn, who — Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice — it’s changed, and it’s not going back. It’s not going back. And we and West­ern Gov­er­nors, we’ve talked about this. And — and, you know, there’s an expres­sion I say all the fire­fight­ers here that God made man and then he made a few firefighters.

You all are the most incred­i­ble peo­ple. Now, I’m not being — it’s not hyper­bole. I start­ed my career with the fire­fight­ers as a 29-year-old kid run­ning for the Unit­ed States Sen­ate, and we’ve nev­er left one anoth­er. And I see the Hot­shots out there. I don’t want to do any more mass memo­r­i­al ser­vices of the 19 Hot­shots that I did back in Arizona.

And the only thing that keeps you all safe is one anoth­er. Fire­fight­ers have as many injuries and lose as many peo­ple as police offi­cers do. But the only thing that real­ly mat­ters is if there’s enough fire­fight­ers — fire­fight­ers pro­tect­ing fire­fight­ers. That’s the big deal. That’s what it all comes down to.

And I just want you to know that you have the full sup­port of my gov­ern­ment — my admin­is­tra­tion, I should say — and all those who have major roles in the gov­ern­ment, from the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture to the Depart­ment of Inte­ri­or — just across the board.

And so — and I want to acknowl­edge Sen­a­tors Risch and Crapo can’t be here. And Sen­a­tor Wyden and Markley [sic] were going to come — or, excuse me, Merkley — were going to come from Ore­gon. We got a call while in flight: The weath­er is so bad they can’t make it here.

And so I just want to thank them for the incred­i­ble work they do as well, because this one of the areas where we do have some over­whelm­ing bipar­ti­san support.

And here at the Nation­al Inter­a­gency Fire Cen­ter, the hub that’s designed to coor­di­nate the resources to fight wild­fires, I’m here to hear what’s on your mind and what more that I should be doing, my admin­is­tra­tion be doing to try to help.

You know, folks, you know the time of the year when the air fills with smoke and the sky turns a lit­tle orange, but that time of year is get­ting ear­li­er every year. And, you know, last week, the air in Boise was thick with smoke from Cal­i­for­nia and from Ore­gon. And, you know, this year, as you’ve point­ed out, Grant, you know, 44,000 wild­fires; 5.4 mil­lion acres burned. That’s larg­er than the entire state of New Jersey.

When I say that back East — they’re used to floods and storms. When I say that back East, they — it’s just unfath­omable. First of all, they don’t ful­ly under­stand how big the West is, but more acreage is burned than the entire state of New Jer­sey, which is a big state.

And, you know, Cal­i­for­nia: 2.2 mil­lion acres this year — already this year. The Dix­ie fire — a mil­lion acres. The Cal­dor fire — 200,000 acres, 1,000 struc­tures. And God knows how many lives risked or lost try­ing to deal with it.

You know, you’ve saved many com­mu­ni­ties — the fire­fight­ers — and you saved South Lake Tahoe. And what peo­ple are begin­ning to real­ize is you risk your lives to do it. And thank God — thank God we have you.

But, you know, fires and fre­quen­cy and feroc­i­ty of these fires — I have — I’m hav­ing a lot of inter­na­tion­al meet­ings with our col­leagues around the world. They’re ask­ing. They’re ask­ing. Aus­tralia — real­ly wor­ried. Aus­tralia (inaudi­ble) but are try­ing to fig­ure it out. Cana­da. I mean, just go around the world.

And so, folks, look: The fact is that we’re in a sit­u­a­tion where too many memo­ri­als are — have been held. And I’ve direct­ed my admin­is­tra­tion to pro­vide for pay bonus­es and incen­tives to ensure every fed­er­al fire­fight­er — because that’s the only author­i­ty I have — makes at least $15 an hour. I mean, they should make a hell of a lot — heck of a lot more, but at least $15 an hour. And I’m com­mit­ting to work with Con­gress to raise the pay gap for fed­er­al wild­land firefighters.

FEMA: 33 fire man­age­ment assis­tant grants to help states pay for the cost of fire­fight­ing. And it’s still not enough. The costs are enor­mous, you have.

And so, you know, believe it or not, there’s mas­sive short­age of fire hoses. I think you all get it. But the idea that we went into this fire sea­son with a short­age of fire hoses — that’s all I heard from my guys back East and in the Mid­west: no fire hoses.

Well, for­tu­nate­ly, they thought a long time ago about a thing called the Nation­al Defense Act. And what I was able to do — excuse me, the Defense Pro­duc­tion Act.

And I was able to restart pro­duc­tion of bring­ing — bring­ing a lot of peo­ple back to work, deliv­er­ing 21,920 new feet of fire hose in the front­lines, putting a com­pa­ny back to work that was out of busi­ness that stopped — stopped manufacturing.

You know — and the major is here; he knows about this. While we were — we have a com­mit­ment at the Depart­ment of Defense to defend home, as well as abroad, and that includes the fire service.

We’re now have — we have C‑130s for fire sup­pres­sion, RC-26 air­craft to pro­vide crit­i­cal fire imagery. And they’re based in Cal­i­for­nia. They’ve flown over 1,000 mis­sions so far — 250 active-duty troops — and I’ve got­ten no push­back from the Depart­ment of Defense in this at all — none — to the Dix­ie fire in Cal­i­for­nia. And shar­ing satel­lite imagery that we have avail­able to us to help mon­i­tor growth of fires.

I’ve direct­ed the EPA to use this new tech­nol­o­gy we have to deliv­er smoke and fire and air qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion direct­ly to peo­ple’s iPhones. We’ll be able to do that very short­ly. It may have already begun in some places.

And — but one of the things we have to do is we have to build back bet­ter than what hap­pened before all this began to come apart. And so, we have a pro­pos­al — and, by the way, both my Repub­li­can col­leagues in this state and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic col­leagues from — from Ore­gon, who were going to try to be here, all — we all sup­port this bill I put togeth­er on infra­struc­ture so when we build back, we can build back bet­ter than it was before.

And it — it cre- — it lit­er­al­ly pro­vides for bil­lions of dol­lars for wild­fire pre­pare — wild­fire pre­pared­ness, resilience and response, for­est man­age­ment, and pub­lic water sources — pub­lic water sources.

What peo­ple back East don’t quite get is that, were it not for the fact we made sig­nif­i­cant invest­ments years ago in every­thing from the Hoover Dam to a whole range of oth­er things out here, a lot of peo­ple south of you would­n’t have any water, and how valu­able and seri­ous access to that water is across the board.

And, you know, we need to — we have $14 bil­lion for dis­as­ter needs, includ­ing $9 bil­lion for com­mu­ni­ties hit with wild­fire and drought. We got to pass it. We got to get it done. And it’s gone through both houses.

But that’s going to — I hope, Gov­er­nor — be of sig­nif­i­cant help to you, because states can’t bur­den it, espe­cial­ly small­er states; you’re a big state. But I mean small­er states, in terms of pop­u­la­tion, can’t car­ry this on their back.

And so, you know, this is a — we’re — we’re one Amer­i­ca. You know, we have a fed­er­al sys­tem because each part of the coun­try is sup­posed to make up for the oth­er count- — parts of the coun­try did­n’t have.

And so, you know, we need to do more. We’ve asked for $14 bil­lion for dis­as­ter needs, includ­ing, as I said, that $9 bil­lion for com­mu­ni­ty — this is over a 10-year peri­od — for — hit by wild­fires and drought.

And, you know, we can’t con­tin­ue to try to ignore real­i­ty. Barack — Pres­i­dent Oba­ma used to always kid me. I’d say, “You know, real­i­ty has a way of work­ing its way in.” Well, you know, the real­i­ty is we have a glob­al warm­ing prob­lem — a seri­ous glob­al warm­ing prob­lem, and it’s consequential.

And what’s going to hap­pen is, things aren’t going to go back to what they were. It’s not like you can build back to what it was before. It’s not going to get any bet­ter than it is today. It only can get worse, not bet­ter. It’s not like we’re going to not have more prob­lems. But we can do this, in my view.

The sci­en­tists have warned us for years: The fail — fail­ure to curb pol­lu­tion from smoke­stacks and auto­mo­biles and a whole range of oth­er things are going to have a con- — going to take its consequences.

And I learned a long time ago, Gov, that — as a U.S. sen­a­tor back east, that all the major streams and ponds and lakes — for exam­ple, in New York state, they were being pol­lut­ed, the fish were dying, things were chang­ing. And you know what it was all from? It wasn’t because of what they were doing in upstate New York; it’s because of smoke­stacks in Chica­go — steel plants — because it car­ries — the wind car­ries that pol­lu­tion at a height that does­n’t affect the state of Illi­nois, or does­n’t affect the state of Indi­ana, does­n’t affect — but it even­tu­al­ly comes down.

Well, you know, I guess you all — I know you all know it. You know, you have the smoke from the fires in Cal­i­for­nia on the East Coast, and some­times it’s block­ing out the sky. Peo­ple are not just wor­ried about COVID; they’re wor­ried about whether their kids are going to be breathing.

And so, every dol­lar we invest in resilience — this is part of my mes­sage here, and there’s a lot more I want to hear from you that you think we should be doing and I think we should be doing as well. But for every dol­lar we invest in resilience that is build­ing back bet­ter, we save six dol­lars down the road in the future. And, you know, you all know the num­ber. Stud­ies show extreme weath­er cost Amer­i­ca last year $99 bil­lion. Extreme weather.

It’s not just fires. I mean, more peo­ple died — I just went — I was in Louisiana, Mis­sis­sip­pi, and all through the south (inaudi­ble) Hur­ri­cane Ida. Well, guess what? More peo­ple died in Brook­lyn than died in Louisiana. More peo­ple. The flood­wa­ters were immense. Nev­er seen any­thing like it. Peo­ple were drown­ing in their homes because there was tor­na­do warn­ings to go to their base­ment, and all of a sud­den, the flood comes through the win­dows, up to the ceil­ing. Can’t get out. Peo­ple dying.

So, I guess, to state the obvi­ous, you all are incred­i­ble in what you’re doing. But I also think about the jobs we’re los­ing due to the impact of sup­ply chains and indus­tries that are being held up.

I’m look­ing for­ward to this brief­ing. My mes­sage to you is: When we build back, we have to build back bet­ter. It’s not a Demo­c­rat thing, it’s not a Repub­li­can thing — it’s a weath­er thing. It’s a real­i­ty. It’s serious.

And we can do this. We can do this, and, in the process of build­ing back, we can cre­ate jobs, not lose jobs. We can cre­ate jobs.

So, my — you know, I’m going to stop here and turn it back to you, Grant. And thanks for host­ing us. And I under­stand, as a for­mer smoke­jumper, you’re crazy too. (Laugh­ter.) God love you all.

I grew up in a lit­tle town called Clay­mont, Delaware, and I went to school — I used to tell Frank Church this — I got a — my first job offer, where I want­ed — my wife — deceased wife and I want­ed to move to Ida­ho because we think — not a joke — because it’s such a beau­ti­ful, beau­ti­ful state. And I inter­viewed for a job with Boise Cas­cade. And in the mean­time, there was a war going on. At any rate –

But the whole point was that I used to always kid Frank. But I grew up with a lit­tle steel town called Clay­mont, Delaware, when Scran­ton shut down because of coal min­ing. And I went to a lit­tle Catholic grade school called Holy Rosary. And it was on — before I‑95, there used to be a thing called the “Philadel­phia pike.” And so, my mom would dri­ve me from — we only lived about a mile from school, and the school bus was­n’t around then — and dri­ve me to the park­ing lot.

And right across the street from the school was a fire sta­tion, Clay­mont Fire — a vol­un­teer fire com­pa­ny, but they’re real­ly good. And so, all the guys who grew up either became cops, fire­fight­ers, or priests. I was­n’t qual­i­fied for any of them, so I’m here. (Laugh­ter.)

But all kid­ding aside, you guys and women are incred­i­ble. You’re incred­i­ble at what you do. I’m not — it’s not hyper­bole. If you know any­thing about me, you know my — my long, long, long, long, long rela­tion­ship with firefighters.

I mean it from the bot­tom of my heart. And we owe you more than just our thanks. We owe you what you need to deal with these problems.

I’m sor­ry to go on so long. Thank you.

I’ll turn it back to you, Grant. And I guess that’s who I’m turn­ing it back to. I don’t know who — any­way, who­ev­er wants to do the talking.

MR. BEEBE: That would be me. Thank you, Mr. President.

And you’re right, I was a smoke­jumper, only because I trained to be a teacher and that was way too dif­fi­cult and scary, so I did some­thing that was way eas­i­er. (Laugh­ter.)

THE PRESIDENT: That’s why I left the coun­ty council.

MR. BEEBE: There you go.

The Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of State Foresters is a key part­ner of ours. George Geissler is rep­re­sent­ing them today. He’s a state forester from the great state of Washington.

Wel­come, George. I know you got a cou­ple things to say, so have at it.

MR. GEISSLER: Yes. Thank you, Grant. And thank you, Mr. Pres­i­dent, for this oppor­tu­ni­ty to give you a lit­tle bit of insight as to the role that state and local gov­ern­ments can play in our inter­a­gency wild­land fire man­age­ment world.

As Grant said, you know, safe and effec­tive fire man­age­ment requires the com­mit­ment, the coop­er­a­tion, and the coor­di­na­tion of all of us, all of our part­ners. State forestry agen­cies — such as my own Wash­ing­ton Depart­ment of Nat­ur­al Resources, the Flori­da For­est Ser­vice, and California’s Cal Fire — are the pri­ma­ry agen­cies that are respon­si­ble for wild­land fire sup­pres­sion in our states, and we’re part­ners here at the Nation­al Inter­a­gency Fire Cen­ter with a fire direc­tor who sits on NMAC and helps to decide each day the pri­or­i­ties that occur in this nation.

Fed­er­al, state, Trib­al, and local agen­cies all ben­e­fit from this col­lab­o­ra­tive effort that helps move nation­al air and ground resources to the areas of great­est threat, while still ensur­ing all agen­cies are sup­port­ed in the fire­fight­ing effort.

With­in the coop­er­a­tive struc­ture of the cohe­sive strat­e­gy, and then for­mal­ized by our Mas­ter Inter­a­gency Wild­land Fire Man­age­ment Agree­ments, states are rou­tine­ly fight­ing fire on fed­er­al lands along­side the fed­er­al agen­cies, and then they turn around and are help­ing us on our own fires. Because, as you said, fire knows no boundaries.

Nation­wide, state forestry agen­cies are respon­si­ble for wild­fire pro­tec­tion on about 1.5 bil­lion acres, and about 1.1 bil­lion of those acres are actu­al­ly state and pri­vate­ly-owned forestlands.

And so far, this year, of those 44,000 fires that you’ve heard, states have respond­ed to about 33,000 of those. We rou­tine­ly are at about 75 per­cent of the num­bers of wild­fires that occur in this country.

So, states con­tribute, in addi­tion to that, just hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars annu­al­ly to pro­vide wild­land fire­fight­ing resources — like, you know, fire­fight­ers, engines, heavy equip­ment, air­craft — and all of this goes into the nation­al effort, along with our fed­er­al partners.

And fed­er­al fund­ing, such as State Fire Assis­tance and Vol­un­teer Fire Assis­tance that we received through the U.S. For­est Ser­vice, actu­al­ly helps to expand on that capac­i­ty as well as main­tain it. And all of that is real­ly get­ting it down to that help­ing the rur­al vol­un­teer fire depart­ments that we all know are across the U.S.

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.

MR. GEISSLER: The part­ner­ship and all of the coop­er­a­tion between state and local gov­ern­ments, though, it’s not just for wild­fire sup­pres­sion, like you said.

You know, through Good Neigh­bor Author­i­ty, through shared stew­ard­ship, we work togeth­er with our local gov­ern­ments, with our Trib­al part­ners, and we do all of the crit­i­cal fuels mit­i­ga­tion work. We do the for­est health treat­ments that are out there. And we’re try­ing to work, as you said, to improve the resilien­cy of these land­scapes as we go and see the impacts of cli­mate change.

You know, and all of this is real­ly — pro­vides assis­tance direct­ly to the com­mu­ni­ties that we have out there. And as you know, wild­fires are impact­ing entire com­mu­ni­ties in the Unit­ed States. These annu­al occur­rences place mil­lions of Amer­i­cans at risk, and they’re no longer lim­it­ed to just what you see about in the news in the West. They — we have fires — it’s now a “fire year,” and we rou­tine­ly have fires through­out all 50 states.

But the threat to cat­a­stroph­ic wild­fire in Amer­i­ca’s wild­land-urban inter­face — it real­ly demands nation­al atten­tion. And it needs to be uni­fied, it needs to be mul­ti­fac­eted, it needs to be — take on pre­ven­tion, mit­i­ga­tion, response, and recovery.

And it’s just like you see wild­land fire sup­pres­sion being man­aged at this build­ing; we need that effort to pro­tect our wild­land-urban interface.

So, as chair of the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of State Foresters Wild­land Com­mit­tee, I real­ly do appre­ci­ate you com­ing and putting this focus on wild­land fire sup­pres­sion and what we can all do togeth­er to address this issue that we’re all fac­ing — be it cli­mate change, land­scape resilien­cy, or threats to our communities.

We look for­ward to work­ing with you.

ENDED AT 12:35 P.M. MDT

Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle also released a state­ment regard­ing Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s vis­it, which was emailed to NPI. Here it is in its entirety.

Two-thirds of Ida­ho is pub­lic land man­aged by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, and it is imper­a­tive we keep lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open with our fed­er­al part­ners – right up to the Pres­i­dent – on ways to build a more fire resilient range and for­est ecosystem.

There is plen­ty I dis­agree with the Pres­i­dent on right now, but today we came togeth­er to lis­ten to one anoth­er and dis­cuss solu­tions on wild­fire. I spent my lim­it­ed time with the Pres­i­dent focus­ing on the incred­i­ble progress Ida­ho has made with col­lab­o­ra­tive ini­tia­tives, includ­ing the Good Neigh­bor Author­i­ty and Shared Stewardship.

We have demon­strat­ed that diverse inter­ests can come togeth­er with the com­mon goal of pro­tect­ing lives and com­mu­ni­ties from wild­fire, cre­at­ing jobs, and improv­ing the landscape.

I point­ed out to the Pres­i­dent the tremen­dous part­ner­ship that Ida­ho has forged with fed­er­al land and fire man­age­ment agen­cies, but there is anoth­er fed­er­al agency that plays a role in our abil­i­ty to suc­cess­ful­ly imple­ment mean­ing­ful prac­tices on the land­scape – the U.S. Depart­ment of Justice.

Just one month ago, an envi­ron­men­tal­ist group suc­ceed­ed in hold­ing up a 2,500-acre log­ging project in North Ida­ho that was part of our Good Neigh­bor Author­i­ty plan to make the land­scape more fire resilient. We need the President’s help with min­i­miz­ing unpro­duc­tive law­suits so we can get ful­ly agreed upon plans imple­ment­ed and reduce the fuel load, and so we are not undu­ly endan­ger­ing fire­fight­ers and our communities.

We must increase the pace and scale of for­est health projects now if we’re going to make progress on our nation­al forests.

I thank the Pres­i­dent for tak­ing the time to vis­it NIFC. West­ern gov­er­nors and I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to work with the Pres­i­dent and his admin­is­tra­tion on land and fire man­age­ment issues fac­ing the West, and I deeply appre­ci­ate our fire­fight­ers for their hard work and brav­ery dur­ing a tough fire season.

Pres­i­dent Biden’s next stops will be in Cal­i­for­nia. He will vis­it Sacra­men­to and Long Beach, where he will be ral­ly­ing with Gov­er­nor Gavin New­som on the final day before the Repub­li­can recall vot­ing peri­od comes to an end.

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