Supporting Tribal Communities During Natural Disasters
Today we held an important hearing in the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on how natural disasters impact tribal communities and how the federal government can help them to be better prepared.
The Las Conchas fire has been the biggest in our state's history, covering nearly 160,000 acres and with only 80% contained. It also had a significant impact on New Mexico's tribal communities. I visited several of our pueblos in the days and weeks after the fire started to check in on how they were doing and how well the coordination with federal agencies was going.
I really appreciate that Santa Clara Pueblo Governor Walter Dasheno took time to come to Washington and tell our committee what he thinks worked well and what we could improve:
Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) teams, run by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) are working on native lands like the Santa Clara pueblo to mitigate flood dangers in various ways, including reseeding severely burnt watersheds, creating erosion barriers, and removing debris.
I discussed the important work of these teams with Mary Wagner, Associate Chief of the Forest Service and Michael Black, Director of the Bureau Of Indian Affairs and urged that they continue to support their efforts:
Throughout this fire season, I've been continually impressed with how New Mexicans have been coming together to support one another in their time of need. We saw this on the Santa Clara Pueblo where the whole community came together to fight the fire, and at the same time, opened up shelters for the people of Los Alamos who were fleeing the fire there.
I think we've also seen impressive coordination between different agencies and levels of government, and as disaster response and recovery continues, I'll continue to do what I can to help these efforts run smoothly.