Nearly 10 months after hundreds of thousands of acres of land in northwest Oklahoma and southern Kansas and the Texas Panhandle were burned in wildfires, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico introduced the Wildfire Regulatory Relief Act.
The fires burned more than 1,200 square miles in Oklahoma and Kansas. The Perryton Fire in the Texas Panhandle burned nearly 500 square miles.
They contend their act will improve federal wildfire disaster response especially for the agricultural communities. Inhofe and Udall, a Democrat say their bipartisan bill addresses the unique concerns that farmers, ranchers and rural communities face after such a devastating wildfire.
“As Oklahomans experienced firsthand last March, wildfires can have a devastating impact,” Inhofe said. “Current disaster response must do a better job considering the unique needs of rural communities when it comes to recovery efforts. I visited Woodward during the fires and saw for myself—hundreds of thousands of acres of farms and ranches were destroyed. “
But the senator said unfortunately the disaster disaster response assistance was hamstrung by what he called “unnecessary regulations.”
“Banks were prevented from lending more money to their customers to recover, and federal aid was slow and insufficient because of bureaucratic red tape,” said the Senator. “This new legislation will address that.”
The Senators said their act calls for updating FEMA’s disaster assessments to include the damaged property of farmers and ranchers. The act will ensure federal regulations don’t limit community recovery efforts through local banks and improve coordination among emergency services.
“New Mexicans know too well the frequent and increasingly severe toll that wildfires can take on our state and on peoples’ livelihoods,” Udall said. “When New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers work to recover after a damaging wildfire, it is critical that the federal government provides flexibility and needed support — not red tape. “
Their act is supported by the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, the Oklahoma Bankers Association and the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.
The measure would also allow grazing on CRP lands when a governor declares a state emergency. It would also require FEMA to account for all damage including ag operations like fence line.