Max Steiner on the Issues

Forestry

Forestry

We have a fire problem in the North State because we have a forest management problem, and the crux of the problem is that there is too much biomass in our forests.

We need to cut down many of the small- and medium-sized trees to create space. This space will facilitate tree growth and fire safety, while generating responsible, renewable revenues for property owners. Our forests are a resource, but they are also increasingly a risk: we can manage that risk better through better policies.

Public discourse on this topic has too often been ruined by simplistic, sound-bite-ready policies on both sides of the political aisle. We can’t solve forestry with soundbites. My brother lost his house in Redding to the Carr fire: I have skin in the game, and I know that the status quo is unacceptable.

Policy Proposals:

  1. Fund forests as essential an essential part of our country’s environmental infrastructure: we need to allocate $3 billion/year in federal funds for fuels reduction, prescribed fires, defensible space, and stewardship agreements. In 1995, the USFS spent 16% of its budget on fire – last year the total was 65%. Worsening fire seasons have drained resources from essential forest maintenance and we need to fill that accumulated deficit.
  2. Consolidate land management agencies: Transition the Forest Service from USDA to the Department of Interior – where it would join the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service in managing our natural resources.
  3. Rebuild our timber industry: Subsidize the start-up costs and streamline the regulations for greater mill capacity and responsible logging in the North State. This will include market interventions to make American timber more competitive. We have too much biomass in our forests and we need to incentivize the market to thin the small, crowded trees that threaten our communities.
  4. Manage our forests at scale: Ease the NEPA process to allow large-scale forest management plans: we need to be approving and executing 100,000-acre-plus treatment plans that acknowledge the catastrophic risks of a “no-treatment” alternative.

Fire

Suppression

Fires

Biden’s Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act allocated $3.3 billion to wildfire risk reduction over five years: about $660 million/year. It’s a well-intentioned start – and much more than the Republican Party was willing to spend – but it is insufficient.

We need a dedicated national effort to reduce the destructive impacts of uncontrolled wildfires. This will require an aggressive commitment by lawmakers to fund more firefighters, with more equipment, in more places. Just as importantly, lawmakers need to force USFS/BLM/NPS to change their culture from “managing fire” to “putting fires out and managing forests”.

Policy Proposals

  1.  More federal money to fight fire on federal land: $1.7 billion dollars/year for at least five years.
  2. Build federal air capability: more smaller platforms like helicopters and single-engine air-tankers distributed around the nation and crewed/maintained by full-time federal personnel. Large, contracted air tankers have a place in the firefighting task organization; but they are expensive and lack flexibility.
  3. Put fires out immediately: the practice of “managed fire” is inappropriate given the poor state of our nation’s forests. To be clear, prescribed fires during appropriate burn windows are essential for forest health.

Fire

Personnel

We need a more flexible way to manage wildland firefighters. We need pre-trained, part-time crews that the government can activate as needed.

Fires are a national security problem, that are hard to predict, with a straightforward – though physically demanding – training pipeline. I’ve spent 10 years in the Army Reserves: this is literally the same set of problems that the Reserves and Guard were designed to solve. War is rare, unpredictable, and requires a country to have trained soldiers before it starts. We should use the military reserve/guard force structure as a model and apply it to the way we fight fires.

Policy Proposals:

  1. More Firefighters: fund, train, and equip thousands of Wildland Fire Reservists trained to a basic handcrew level (FFT2) that the Federal Government can call up when needed.
  2. Protect protect the civilian employment of wildland firefighters who are activated to fight large fires: USERRA for firefighters. The U.S. military protects its reserve members through USERRA – which protects the jobs of Reservists and Guardsmen when they are called to military duty. Reserve firefighters should have similar protections.
  3. Bring high-tier firefighters into full-time employment or split fire/university billets. We cannot lose highly-skilled firefighters to more stable civilian employment. In addition, educating motivated and experienced firefighters to take on positions of greater authority – such as professional foresters – can help fill personnel requirements within USFS/BLM/NPS.

National Defense

National Defense

Unlike Doug LaMalfa, I have fought for my country. Moreover, as an Army Reservist, I stand ready to fight for America again. We have been ill-served by a Congress full of armchair generals and think-tank strategists, who have wasted countless dollars and lives on ill-fated interventions overseas.

We are facing the threat of a rising China: a totalitarian regime singularly focused on the rules-based international order that cost half a million American lives in World War Two. We cannot squander the blood and sacrifices of our forefathers by retreating to isolationism. Nor can we embrace a self-congratulatory complacence in which we assume that the liberal democratic order will effortlessly persevere.

We live in the real world: where evil regimes stand ready to destroy everything we stand for. We need fighters in Congress that know the stakes.

Guiding principles:

  1. The American military protects American interests. Sometimes that means protecting willing allies against foreign aggression. It does not mean nation building. We do not incur a Responsibility To Protect. Our soldiers are the cream of our society – and we must use them sparingly and decisively to secure an American future.
  2. Just as our military must remain a last resort, our diplomatic efforts overseas must remain proactively engaged on the front lines of foreign affairs. I have served as a diplomat in Honduras, Mexico, Egypt, and Washington, D.C. I know the issues, I know the questions to ask, and I know what the diplomatic service can reasonably accomplish.

Water

Water

One of the most important things the federal government can do for California’s water crisis is to fund more dams.

If you think that California’s water problem can be solved with only dams: you are wrong. The changing climate means that the water is not there. If you think that you can solve California’s water problem with only water restrictions: you’re equally wrong. You will bankrupt farmers and destroy California’s agricultural industry.

We know, given climate change, that we will have these droughts in the future: that means a greater reliance on groundwater. The economics of these projects are clear, and every acre-foot of surface water capacity represents a foot less of groundwater users will need to pump.

Doug LaMalfa likes to claim that he knows water because he has a family tradition of using water. That is like a fox saying he should be in charge of the henhouse because he comes from a long line of foxes. The Steiners have a tradition of actually solving water problems in the West. My grand-uncle, Wesley Steiner, was Deputy Director of the California Department of Water Resources before becoming DWR Director in Arizona. There, he managed multiple competing issues in building the Central Arizona Project aqueduct, which moves 1.5 million acre-feet/year: balancing environmental and cost concerns while convincing farmers to tolerate groundwater limits.

I hope you will give me a chance to carry on the Steiner family’s tradition of solving water issues in the West through intelligent, balanced policymaking.

Policy Proposals:

  1. The federal government should fund 25% of Sites Reservoir for environmental water: cross-subsidizing capacity needed for urban and agricultural use while protecting vulnerable ecosystems.
  2. The federal government should continue to explore the Shasta Dam raise, and explore mechanisms to recoup costs through sales on the California Water Futures market.
  3. The federal government should continue to support California state efforts to balance groundwater use to provide an environmentally sustainable supply of water for users across the state.

Agriculture

Agriculture

As the American officer in charge of agricultural affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Honduras, I helped American farmers export rice, potatoes, and beef products even as local producers tried to get around the protections granted by CAFTA (The Central American Free Trade Agreement). I know the challenges that American producers face in exporting overseas and I know how to fight for you.

As your Congressman, I will support farmers in the district who have trouble penetrating the maze of American agricultural bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.

The farmers of this district don’t need a Congressman that knows how to farm – they’re not turning to D.C. for help with farming. The farmers of this district need a Congressman who understands how to solve bureaucratic problems.

I know how to support farmers through policy.

Policy Proposals:

  1. An amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act to allow Foreign Agricultural Service officers of the United States Department of Agriculture to revoke the visas of foreign nationals and their dependents that impede the sale of U.S. agricultural products overseas.
  2. A more equitable and streamlined H2A (temporary, agricultural) visa process that safeguards the rights of foreign agricultural workers while satisfying the needs of American producers.