Friday, November 20, 2015

Bill offers hope for forest fuel reduction

As ranchers throughout the West deal with the aftermath of catastrophic summer wildfires, proponents of legislation to reduce fuel loads in federal forests say there’s a good chance it will pass Congress before the end of the year as part of funding the federal budget. The Resilient Federal Forest Act of 2015, HR 2647, was introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., a professional forester and engineer, on June 4. It was passed by 243 Republicans and 19 Democrats on July 9 and awaits a hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. In short, the bill, at the urging of the Obama administration, allows the U.S. Forest Service to access funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for fighting fires instead of depleting non-firefighting funds within the Forest Service budget. The bill also allows the USFS and Bureau of Land Management expedited environmental review of forest management projects — including logging, thinning and prescribed burns — in public forests at imminent risk of major wildfire, insects and disease...more

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