Senator Murray Talks Conserving National Forests, Importance of Fire Fix at Hearing on Forest Service Budget


***WATCH: Senator Murray’s remarks and questioning of Chief Moore***


Washington, D.C. — Today—at a Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing on the fiscal year 2025 budget request for the U.S. Forest Service—U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, discussed the importance of ensuring the Forest Service has the resources it needs to maintain our public lands for generations to come. In opening comments, she said:


“Chief Moore, I’m really glad to have this opportunity to hear about what you need for the Forest Service’s important work.

“Like so many other visitors each year, I love the beauty of our national forests back in Washington state—Olympic, Okanogan-Wenatchee, Gifford Pinchot, Colville, and they’re all amazing.

“They really are a national treasure but they’re also home to keystone species, including salmon which are so important to Washington state. They are a resource in so many ways to our tribes and to our communities. And they are a part of our history—one of the first big businesses in Seattle was selling lumber to build cities across the West Coast.

“So I really believe we have a responsibility to not just manage our forest resources, but maintain these lands for generations to come.

“And that means investing in our forests—because if we shortchange them, there is not enough money in the world to restore forests if we fail to protect them now.

“I don’t want future generations hearing about the forests we once had. Or the trees that once stood tall. Or the salmon that once swam in rivers.

“I want to make sure we pass these riches on to our kids and grandkids intact.

“And that means making sure that our Forest Service has the funding it needs to help preserve the public land in its care, to work with our communities to be good stewards of our natural resources, and prevent and respond to threats like wildfire.

“And when it comes to wildfires, I’m especially focused on making sure we extend the fire fix and address the underfunding challenges we have had for this work.”


Senator Murray spoke with U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore about sustaining critical pay increases for wildland firefighters and the “Fire Fix,” and what its potential expiration in fiscal year 2027 would mean for the Forest Service. The fix created a reserve fund for the Forest Service and Department of Interior to tap into when baseline firefighting funds are depleted—instead of “fire borrowing,” or transferring money set aside for other critical programs.


Chief Moore noted for firefighter positions, that: “We had also been getting some declinations over the last couple years because of the pay and the fact that you could work at a fast food restaurant and make more than a lot of our firefighters at the lower end of the pay scale were making. This pay bump that Congress has provided has been the difference in keeping people in place longer. But I’ll tell you their concern that this may not be permanent. And so they are looking at their options on whether they can provide for their families by taking another job or whether they should stay here and trust that Congress is going to provide the stability that they are looking for—because they love the work they do, they love working for the agency—it’s just that they have families to care for.”


At the hearing, Senator Murray also asked Chief Moore about the Forest Service’s efforts to stabilize staffing and reduce turnover, especially as it relates to staffing for the Central Washington Initiative, and asked about its plans to restore access to the Mount St. Helen’s Johnson Ridge Observatory after a massive landslide in May 2023 cut through the only highway to the observatory.