“Events like the Sugarloaf Fire, the Martin Fire, and other emergencies have burned more than 2 million acres in our state in the last two years alone…So people in Nevada are demanding that government at every level do more to prevent and respond to fire—and rightfully so.”
“I firmly believe that what we do here in Nevada can become a model across the West to increase cooperation and coordination, not just for wildfires but for other issues as well.”
“There’s so much we can do if we work together and share ideas, priorities, strategies, and solutions. We can make our communities safer, our land healthier, and our economies more resilient.”
Reno, Nev. – Today U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) hosted a summit on the importance of protecting the Silver State from wildfires. The event, entitled the “Nevada Wildfire Summit – Protecting and Preserving Our Rangelands”, brought together government officials and business owners to discuss how to prevent and combat increasingly devastating wildfires in Nevada, and throughout the West. The summit included three panel discussions with state, local and federal agencies, along with private entities, to highlight innovative solutions to improve communication and resource coordination between stakeholders, protect rangeland economies and support new firefighting technologies. The following are the Senator’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery.
Good morning, everyone, and welcome. I’m so glad that all of you could be here with us today to increase cooperation among local, state, and federal groups on the critical issue of wildfires.
This summit is a product of conversations I’ve had all around the state.
Conversations like the ones I had last fall with firefighters in Lamoille Canyon in the aftermath of the devastating fire there; with ranchers across Nevada; and with fire chiefs, tribal leaders, and government officials concerned about protecting communities.
You know, between climate change and invasive cheatgrass, which makes incredible tinder, our rangelands especially are caught in a vicious cycle of fire.
When native sagebrush gets crowded out and the rangelands burn, the cheatgrass comes back faster and in greater abundance.
And that only helps stoke the next fire. We’ve seen it year after year.
Events like the Sugarloaf Fire, the Martin Fire, and other emergencies have burned more than 2 million acres in our state in the last two years alone.
So people in Nevada are demanding that government at every level do more to prevent and respond to fire—and rightfully so.
Everyone gathered here today knows that Nevadans rely on the land in so many ways, from the tourism and recreation industry, to ranching and grazing, to hunting and mining.
We simply have to protect our land, so it—and we—can continue to thrive.
And we’re going to do that through partnerships like the ones we’re strengthening here today.
I firmly believe that what we do here in Nevada can become a model across the West to increase cooperation and coordination, not just for wildfires but for other issues as well.
And I’m so glad that the Silver State has stepped up to the challenge of addressing fires.
I’d particularly like to thank Governor Steve Sisolak and our legislature for the terrific progress they made in our last legislative session.
Assemblywoman Heidi Swank and State Senator Pete Goicoechea have been tremendous leaders on this issue, and I’m thrilled they are here today.
As many of you know, the legislature created an interim study committee dedicated to learning more about wildfire reduction and early responses to fires.
We also have a state fire funding fix—like the federal funding fix I helped pass in 2018—that will get us the money we need, when we need it, to respond to fires.
On top of that, the legislature allocated $5 million to match federal and private funds for prevention, suppression, and recovery from fire.
Yet we all know that a lot more has to be done. I’m fighting in the Senate to help our state and federal partners get the money that’s needed.
And I’m working to ensure that those state, federal, and other external funds are used in the most efficient way possible to prevent fires before they start, and to assist communities with recovery after fires happen.
I know there are people here today who are also working hard to make sure that happens. Who’ve fought so hard to get our firefighters and state agencies the resources they need.
I’m proud of our state for taking bold action to respond to fires and build our resiliency. And I’m also proud of how we’ve fought to hold the federal government accountable for providing us with more assistance.
I’m going to keep fighting alongside you to get the federal government and FEMA to recognize that rangeland fires are as devastating to our environment and economies as other emergencies.
After the Sugarloaf fire, FEMA rejected Nevada’s application for a fire management grant because the fire “did not constitute a major disaster”.
FEMA’s view seems to be that only threats to human life or buildings ought to count when determining disaster relief.
But I believe that those who depend on our public lands for their livelihoods deserve the same consideration as when fire affects private property or heavily populated areas.
Nevadans have seen damage to entire ecosystems, with huge impacts on wildlife, grazing lands, and hunting grounds.
Not only does this require a robust response from firefighters, but it has profound economic consequences for our state.
I’m doing all I can in the Senate to ensure that the federal government understands exactly how wildfires affect Nevada’s sparsely populated lands, and to secure disaster relief so rural communities can rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
We need to make sure that we can restore our fire-scarred areas once the flames are out.
And we need more innovative solutions—first, to fight fires faster so we can better contain them, but also to prevent fires from breaking out in the first place.
I’ve been so impressed and inspired by the terrific and creative problem solving coming out of UNR, DRI and other research institutions.
UNR’s Seismology Lab helped pioneer ALERTTahoe—which has expanded to become ALERTWildfire—to use cameras and other state-of-the-art technology to monitor for fires and assist firefighters in deploying and managing resources to best combat them.
It’s these types of innovative solutions that can bring us all together to prevent the next fire. All of us here today coming together—it’s so powerful.
Communities across Northern Nevada are coming together and working hard to develop plans to adapt to and cope with fires, including making smart decisions about where to locate homes and businesses, how to manage open space, and how to educate the public about fire risks.
There’s so much we can do if we work together and share ideas, priorities, strategies, and solutions. We can make our communities safer, our land healthier, and our economies more resilient.
I’m excited to help lead that effort here today with each one of you. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.
That’s why we’re here today.
Thank you so much.