Over the weekend, as smoke from Western fires cast a thin haze in the sky above the Capitol, senators unveiled the details of a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill that would make a historic investment to combat wildfires.

Mark Swanson.

Mark Swanson, an associate professor of forestry at Washington State University, said lawmakers in Congress need to understand those factors aren’t mutually exclusive.

“We’re seeing a perfect storm of climate change and the accumulation of fuels from the period of fire exclusion,” he said, referring to the policy of putting out nearly all fires that has led to denser forests than existed before white settlers arrived.

Other factors, Swanson said, include population growth that has brought more accidental fires and more people living in areas susceptible to fire, and the federal government barring Native Americans from using controlled burns and other traditional forest management tools.

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