Manchin, Barrasso seek GAO audit on forest management

By Marc Heller | 04/23/2024 04:16 PM EDT

The lawmakers asked the Government Accountability Office to identify shortcomings in the Forest Service’s wildfire efforts.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va., left) and ranking member John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Francis Chung/POLITICO

The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday asked the investigative arm of Congress to find out why the Forest Service isn’t moving faster to reduce wildfire threats on land it oversees, despite billions of dollars devoted to that cause in recent appropriations.

In a letter to the Government Accountability Office, committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and ranking Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming asked for a review of authorities that allow the Forest Service to speed and expand its forest thinning and related activities, and for ways to improve forest work that crosses federal and nonfederal lines of ownership.

“The increasingly devastating outcomes from wildfires in the United States requires a change in how the federal government prepares for, responds to, and recovers from wildfires,” the senators said.


They added, “Federal agencies have long recognized the need to significantly increase the pace and scale of forest management to reduce the extreme risk posed by wildfires. Nevertheless, efforts to reduce wildfire risk have not been undertaken at the scale necessary to address the crisis.”