Members of Congress examine wildfire and energy independence
U.S. Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Dan Newhouse
Editor’s note: U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House and the congressman representing Bakersfield, and U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Washington, wrote this commentary, which they submitted to the News-Press. The congressmen visited Santa Barbara and Santa Maria last week.
President Ronald Reagan once said of his beloved ranch, “Riding on one of the tree-lined trails, or gazing up at the Western skies — well, there’s no better way I know of to sort out a problem.”
As members of Congress who represent districts in the West, we relate to the majesty described by President Reagan. However, we also understand our states face unique challenges that we must work to overcome.
Throughout the West, communities are bracing for what is expected to be a record-breaking wildfire season. When paired with decades of land mismanagement and severe drought currently facing many of our communities, these threats pose a great risk to the lives and livelihoods of our constituents.
At the same time, new federal regulations and unilateral actions by the Biden administration are threatening both our energy security and the very fabric of rural communities, putting thousands of Americans out of work and damaging the economic well-being of families and businesses.
President Biden and Democrats in Congress have consistently refused to address these pressing issues. Their “solutions” — throttling our energy industry by mandating a switch to solely “green energy” resources, enabling serial litigators to pump the breaks on critical land and species management projects, and burdening our nation’s producers with federal regulations that put generations of family farmers out of business – will not fix these problems.
Last week, in the spirit of President Reagan, we were in California — specifically Wednesday in Santa Maria and Thursday in Santa Barbara — to sort out some problems.
The Congressional Western Caucus is a group of members of Congress who work to lift the voices of local communities on issues facing rural America. From active land and forest management to locally-led conservation efforts to economic development within rural communities, we promote sound policies that advance the values we hold dear throughout the rural West and beyond.
Last week, more than a dozen members of Congress, including California representatives Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Tom McClintock (CA-04), Jay Obernolte (CA-08), David Valadao (CA-21), Ken Calvert (CA-42) and Darrell Issa (CA-50), along with several dozen congressional staffers, heard directly from California community leaders on important issues impacting local communities, from drought and wildfire prevention to agriculture and energy independence.
In addition to forest management, emerging firefighting technology is critical to suppression and prevention efforts, so our trip included a look last Wednesday at this technology and firefighting aircraft firsthand at the Santa Maria Airport. Many members received a briefing with federal, state, and local firefighting officials to learn how we can increase intergovernmental collaboration and promote innovation to battle fires like those that have wreaked havoc on communities across the West.
Western drought certainly heightens the risk of catastrophic wildfires, but it also impacts the thousands of farmers and ranchers who depend upon a reliable water supply. We met with California producers and agriculture organizations to learn about their challenges and how policymakers in D.C. can assist.
Finally, members of the Western Caucus participated in a roundtable featuring panelists that discussed the importance of domestic critical mineral development.
In recent months, it appears the Biden administration is hell-bent on destroying our nation’s energy independence. Increasing our dependence on foreign nations is not only devastating to our rural communities who rely on the revenues and economic development that comes from domestic mining, but it is dangerous for our national security.
It is only fitting that this field tour ended at the Reagan Ranch. President Reagan’s legacy is one that Americans across the country admire because he understood that private citizens and industry are far more capable of overcoming our nation’s challenges than the federal government ever could be.
Democrats continue to put forth empty promises of unrealistic and unsustainable solutions. The focus of our trip mirrored our focus in the nation’s capital: representing the values that matter to local communities and empowering Americans — not the federal government — to work together to sort out our problems. As California’s communities continue to lead on these important issues, we will continue to listen and lift their voices.
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District and serves as chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus. U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy represents California’s 23rd Congressional District and serves as Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.