Wednesday, July 17, 2013

McCain, Flake introduce bill to reduce wildfire risks

U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona introduced a bill on Tuesday that would give federal agencies greater incentive to contract with companies to harvest trees and other vegetation that fuels wildfires. The Republican senators’ legislation comes in the wake of the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire, which killed 19 firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshots and destroyed more than 100 homes and buildings. That fire burned primarily on state and private land but was fueled in part by overgrown vegetation. The bill would grant the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management flexibility when holding funds in reserve to cover the cost of canceled contracts with timber companies and other businesses. Typically, the federal government must hold the full amount of the contract for the duration of the agreement, which can last up to 10 years. This costly requirement can be an impediment to long-term contracts to remove timber, underbrush and other wildfire risks. “Thinning our forests will reduce the fuel load for wildfires and make them more manageable for our firefighters,” McCain said in a statement. “This legislation extends the Forest Service’s authority to enter into forest stewardship contracts that use private timber companies to thin our forests and sell the harvested wood as compensation. The bill further streamlines Forest Service regulations and gives the agency more flexibility to execute the large-scale, long-term thinning projects that are so critical to the health of Arizona’s forests and the safety of our communities.”...more

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