COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said Thursday that one of her biggest fears when she became chief executive of the state two years ago was a devastating wildfire.
That concern came to life this year as nearly 1 million acres of Arizona burned in wildfires that included the largest such blaze in the state's history.
"One percent of the total land mass of Arizona has already burned in this fire season alone, and the season is not over yet," said Brewer, speaking at the Western Governors' Association annual meeting here Thursday.
Harris Sherman, undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told governors that wildfires are becoming bigger and more destructive in western states, because of a combination of factors including drought, insect infestations and disease.
He said potential solutions include expensive practices like controlled burns, thinning and pest control.
U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, suggested that locally controlled land would be in better position to prevent fires and called for the federal government to transfer authority.
"States and local governments are closest to the land and better suited to manage it," he said.
Hastings also said 88 percent of the land in the 12 westernmost states is under federal control. He called on the government to allow more domestic energy production, timber harvesting and grazing on those lands.
For his part, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, questioned whether states could afford to manage federal lands that had a big backlog of maintenance needs.
"I'm not sure I could turn a profit on forest land that has been managed by the federal government," Schweitzer said.