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COLUMN: Responding to Constituent Questions on Wildfires, Carbon Rules, and National Security

December 7, 2015
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

Constituents from across Central Washington regularly contact me with questions and comments on federal issues through phone calls and letters to my office, emails, and even Facebook. I recently held a telephone town hall to take calls because hearing firsthand from constituents is how I can best represent Central Washington in Congress. A single question may represent the views of many, so here is a sample summarizing recent questions and comments I have recently received:

Comment from a constituent from Coulee Dam: We need to log timber on federal lands to reduce the threat of wildfire. The federal government has too much red tape to remove and log damaged trees.

I agree. This summer’s catastrophic wildfires that burned more than a million acres and hundreds of home underscores the need to improve forest management. This is an enormous concern for Central Washington, and I am focused on solutions. Diminished forest health has contributed to the significant increase in catastrophic wildfires over the past 15 years. I supported House passage of legislation to speed up the ability to remove damaged trees from forests and to reduce the amount of time it takes to salvage timber from fires. After a year, damaged timber loses much of its value, so red tape has an additional direct economic impact. Cutting the time and cost for planning processes that make forest management more efficient is needed to reduce hazardous materials that fuel wildfires.

Another constituent asked about my thoughts on the international climate meeting held in Paris.

As a farmer, I certainly believe that we need to be responsible to be good stewards of our environment, but policies that raise the price of American energy sources such as coal—which provides almost 40% of our nation’s electricity—will only hamstring the growth of the American economy without significant global environmental benefits. American consumers deserve affordable energy, and costly federal carbon regulations will do more economic harm than environmental good.

A local veteran who served in the Korean War expressed concern that the Obama Administration has not done enough to strengthen our national security in recognition of the threat we face in ISIS.

I strongly disagree with President Obama’s words on the day before the Paris attacks that ISIS “is contained.” In the absence of a comprehensive strategy to defeat ISIS, the terrorist group has carried out horrific attacks on our allies. Many Washingtonians feel that the U.S. is not doing enough in response. The President recently downplayed ISIS as “a bunch of killers with good social media,” assuring Americans on the day before Thanksgiving that there was, “no specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland.” One week later, ISIS-linked terrorists attacked a holiday party in California. Downplaying the threat of Islamic radicalism has not made us safer. We must take the threat to our homeland and the twisted ideology motivating these terrorists seriously in order to defeat them.