Arizona Congressional Republicans Call For Rapid Action To Assist Wallow Fire Recovery Efforts


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 20, 2011
MEDIA CONTACTS:
Andrew Wilder (Kyl)
Brian Rogers (McCain)
Hannah Loy (Gosar)
Ben Carnes (Franks)
Richard Cullen (Quayle)
Rachel Semmel (Schweikert)
Genevieve Frye Rozansky (Flake)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Republican members of Arizona’s congressional delegation today sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell urging him to request alternative arrangements for federal regulatory compliance in order to expedite clean up and recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Wallow Fire.

“Destruction from the Wallow Fire has exposed large areas in Eastern Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests to the risk of additional damage,” the members of the delegation said, explaining the reason for their letter. “Time is of the essence, especially with the arrival of the monsoon season, in acting to protect life and property, and to reduce the risks for further damage to the environment.”

“While the reviews prescribed in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) might be desirable in certain, less urgent circumstances, we believe the existing procedures are incompatible with the current exigencies faced in the aftermath of the Wallow Fire.”

Council on Environmental Quality regulations permit “alternative arrangements” for NEPA compliance in order to provide flexibility in emergency situations. The members of the delegation who sent the letter believe that the Wallow Fire situation conforms to the very circumstances contemplated for such alternate arrangements, and have urged Chief Tidwell to exercise this option.

The text of the letter to Chief Tidwell follows below and is also attached in PDF form:

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July 20, 2011

The Honorable Tom Tidwell
Chief, U.S. Forest Service
Yates Building, 5th Floor
201 14th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Chief Tidwell:

We write to urge you to request from the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) “alternative arrangements,” pursuant to Section 1506.11, for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (40 C.F.R §1500 et seq) to respond to the Wallow Fire.

As you are well aware, the Wallow Fire in Eastern Arizona has burned for more than 40 days, across more than 538,000 acres of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and into neighboring New Mexico. The fire is now the largest in Arizona’s recorded history. The damage to the national forest is still being assessed, but it is known that that the fire has killed or severely damaged a large number of trees. The volume of dead and dying trees increases the fuel load for future high-intensity fires, and provides ideal conditions for insect and disease outbreaks. The exposed soil and the arrival of the monsoon rains present an immediate risk of flooding and debris flows that threaten lives, property, water quality, and valuable natural resources throughout the burned area. The State of Arizona has declared a state of emergency and county and local officials have declared the situation a disaster.

Given the post-fire conditions in the Wallow Fire area, swift action is needed by the Forest Service to protect human life and property and mitigate further damage to timber resources and the environment. There is not sufficient time to follow all of the procedures for environmental review under the NEPA of all the actions that will be needed to respond. The alternative arrangements regulation was put in place for circumstances such as this one. As you know, alternative arrangements do not waive the requirements to comply with the NEPA, but instead establish alternative arrangements for compliance in emergencies.

Having seen the devastation for yourself, we are hopeful you will agree that the circumstances of the Wallow Fire warrant the application of alternative arrangements. The communities affected by the Wallow Fire cannot afford needless delays.

Sincerely,

JON KYL
United States Senator

JOHN MCCAIN
United States Senator

JEFF FLAKE
Member of Congress

PAUL A. GOSAR, D.D.S.
Member of Congress

BEN QUAYLE
Member of Congress

TRENT FRANKS
Member of Congress

DAVID SCHWEIKERT
Member of Congress

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