When Gov. Jay Inslee visited Spokane and declared a widespread state of emergency on Tuesday, he said citizens and lawmakers must “attack climate change itself” in order to prevent devastating wildfires.
But Eastern Washington’s congressional representative took a different tack on Wednesday, saying she wants to focus on forest management rather than human-caused climate change and the unusually hot and dry summers of recent years.
During a news conference at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, where local fire departments have established a joint command center, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was noncommittal when asked about Inslee’s comments.
Below is a complete, verbatim transcript of my exchange with the congresswoman. And here is a more fleshed-out version of the story.
CHAD SOKOL: Governor Inslee yesterday linked this explicitly to climate change and said that’s where the policy focus needs to be. What do you think about that?
MCMORRIS RODGERS: I think the policy focus needs to be on healthy forests. We need to be looking at better forest management. I’ve introduced legislation to address the condition of the forests. Clearly, we have a lot of trees that are dead, diseased, bug-infested, and that needs to be addressed. I’ve also been working with other members of Congress to look at the way we fund fires. And we’ll be going back actually just right after Labor Day, and this is going to be one of the top issues.
SOKOL: So when you’re talking about prevention, you’re talking about fixing the forests. Are you also talking about carbon solutions? That’s something he (Inslee) has really pushed, and he seems to think that’s a pretty direct way to fix the problem.
MCMORRIS RODGERS: My focus has been on better forest management – healthy forests. I’ve been very concerned. If people really understood the conditions of our forests – bug infestations that we have, the disease, dying timber that is basically kindling for fires – I believe that they would be demanding that we take action. And we need to address that.