President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris held a ZOOM meeting on Friday afternoon with governors from the western states most affected by wildfire.

He first addressed Montana Governor Greg Gianforte and asked him directly to explain the term ‘Forest Health Plan’.

President Biden said, “You talked about a ‘forest health plan’, and as I say to my staff all the time, say it in plain English, what does that mean?” he asked.

Gianforte responded.

“We've been very active and being stewards of those grounds and when we thin a forest, this is not clear cuts but when we remove excess fuels, water comes back into the surface streams, wildlife comes back into that community and when wildfire goes through a managed forest, it doesn't get into the crown. It doesn't burn as hot,” said Gianforte. “We don't have the devastation and structures aren't threatened.”

Gianforte related what’s been happening in Montana since even before summer started.

“Our heroic firefighters are confronting 19 large scale fires in Montana alone,” he said. “And to put that in perspective, just since January 1, we've had 1,600 fires start in Montana, we've burned about 220,000 acres. These wildfires threaten the safety of our communities.”

Gianforte described the lack of management in federal forest lands.

“I can take you 10 miles west of the State Capitol in Helena and show you a federal forest where 90% of the trees are standing dead,” he said. “They've been killed by beetles, and this really creates a tinderbox situation. It reduces habitat so very, very little wildlife lives there. And when we get a lightning strike or a campfire out of control, and a fire starts in a forest like that, we put firefighters at risk. They're very hard to control.”

Seven other western states governors also spoke with the President and Vice President about the wildfire situation in their respective states. Biden promised more federal monies to help hire and better pay wildland firefighters.

 

KEEP READING: Scroll to see what the big headlines were the year you were born