Chimney Tops 2 Fire discussed at Senate Confirmation Hearing

Today the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources conducted a hearing to consider the nomination of Montana Representative Ryan Zinke to be the new Secretary of the Interior. I watched a portion of it and two items caught my attention.

Mr. Zinke said in no uncertain terms that he was against turning over federal land to states or other organizations. In fact it has been reported that he resigned from the Republican National Committee this summer when they insisted on making land divestiture a part of their platform.

The other issue was the Chimney Tops 2 Fire that in November burned from Great Smoky Mountains National Park into Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We captured this 3-minute portion of the hearing in the video above. The fire killed 14 people and destroyed 2,013 homes and 53 commercial structures. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander wanted assurance from Mr. Zinke that he would commit to “paying close attention” to a scheduled review of the incident “so that we can see if there are any lessons to be learned for the future”. Mr. Zinke said, “Senator, I will absolutely commit to that.”

Mr. Alexander also made a pitch to increase the funding for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, arguing that the agreement when the land bought by the people and given to the federal government stipulated that entrance fees could not be charged. He said Yellowstone NP has half as many visitors as Smoky MNP but twice the budget. The Senator did not mention that Yellowstone is almost four times as large, 522,427 acres vs. 2,219,791 acres

After the hearing concludes a video recording of the entire event will be available at the Committee’s website.

For the most current information about the Chimney Tops 2 Fire at Gatlinburg, see our articles tagged “Chimney 2 Fire”.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills.

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One thought on “Chimney Tops 2 Fire discussed at Senate Confirmation Hearing”

  1. Growing up in Bryson City, N.C., I got to know, love, and appreciate the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Appalachian Trail runs nearly the entire ‘state line’ ridge in the Park, along with approx. 800 miles of other trails scattered across it’s 522,427 acres. While Yellowstone is indeed nearly four times the size of the GSMNP, the number of visitors to the Smokies routinely hits 10+ million visitors a year. However, the number of folks seeking to spend time in the backcountry of the Smokies pales in comparison to Yellowstone. Which means, out of this 10+ million, the facilities within the Smokies receive extremely heavy usage. Roads in need of repair, campgrounds falling apart, fewer seasonal ranger positions, trail maintenance left undone (thanks to volunteer groups who do what they can on the trails) closure of backcountry roads due to flood/storm damages….could go on and on. Not to begrudge any other Park and their funding. Just happen to have a soft spot for ALL of our National Parks, and the GSMNP in particular.

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