In early June, members of the Congressional Western Caucus, California congressional representatives and staff members met in Santa Barbara, CA, hearing from community leaders on issues from drought and wildfire prevention to agriculture and energy independence.

“President [Joe] Biden and Democrats in Congress have consistently refused to address these pressing issues. Their ‘solutions’—throttling our energy industry by mandating a switch to solely ‘green energy’ resources, enabling serial litigators to pump the breaks on critical land and species management projects, and burdening our nation’s producers with federal regulations that put generations of family farmers out of business—will not fix these problems,” Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA-4) wrote in an editorial.

The visit started with a firsthand look at emerging fire suppression technology at Santa Maria Airport with water-dropping demonstrations. The caucus also heard from the Southwest Division of the U.S. Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and Orange County Fire Authority. The groups discussed how the caucus can improve collaboration and promote innovation between the county, state, federal and Tribal agencies.

“Combatting the wildfire challenges in the West requires an innovative mix of fire prevention and suppression resources and policies,” said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA-42) in a statement.“The Western Caucus is leading the way in putting the pieces in place to confront these disasters. I’m grateful for the members and staff who have traveled to California to gain a better understanding of the issues we are facing.”

Following the visit to Santa Maria Airport, the caucus heard from the California Farm Bureau (CAFB) and Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association on the challenges with the agricultural industry, including the drought conditions and trade agreements.

The following day McCarthy was the keynote speaker at Young America’s Foundation—“a non-profit committed to ensuring that young Americans understand conservative values”—at the Ronald Reagan Center in downtown Santa Barbara.

During his address, McCarthy reflected on the events of the past year, including the pandemic and the Republican party’s loss of the majority in both houses of Congress.

Following the speech by McCarthy, the event held two panels, “Water, Disaster Relief and Fire Prevention” and the “Need for Strategic & Critical Mineral Development in America.”

The water panel was moderated by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA-04) with CAFB President Jamie Johansson and Ed Goldberg, CEO of Perimeter Solutions. Johansson stated, “Water is a bipartisan issue, always has been,” continuing “California farmers want to be part of the solution.” Johansson said farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists and work to conserve resources, especially water. Goldberg stressed that wildfire prevention is critical.

The second panel regarding mineral development was moderated by Rep. John Curtis (R-UT-3) with Heather Reams of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutionsand a member of the American Exploration and Mining Association. The panelists said the U.S. has “the safest and most responsible mining practices in the world, and public-private partnerships are key for mineral development, particularly as demand continues to rise.”

McCarthy touched briefly on the topics presented by the panels in his address, stating that Republican Party members in California should remain firm on land protection policy despite holding the minority in Congress. As Californians, McCarthy said, the representatives and their constituents are the “keepers of the land.”

“We’re going to talk about the [environmental] challenges that we have because people don’t understand unless they’re from the West,” McCarthy said. “I don’t care if you’re the party and you’re on the East Coast, you concreted over all your property, and then you want to tell us how to manage ours. We’re the ones who are the keepers of the land.”

The visit concluded with a tour of President Ronald Reagan’s Rancho del Cielo Ranch near Santa Barbara. McCarthy and Newhouse said in an editorial it was “only fitting” the visit concluded with a tour of the ranch, stating, “President Reagan’s legacy is one that Americans across the country admire because he understood that private citizens and industry are far more capable of overcoming our nation’s challenges than the federal government ever could be.” — Charles Wallace, WLJ editor

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