Friday, December 11, 2015

Deal to reform wildfire budget, hasten logging gains momentum

A pending deal to reform the nation's wildfire spending and expedite logging on national forests is picking up momentum as a potential tag-along to the 2016 omnibus spending package, according to multiple sources close to Capitol Hill. But a key unknown is whether negotiators can gain support from Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who have both historically opposed the wildfire budget reforms that are a key component of the emerging deal. Sources said both Republicans appear to have softened their opposition to allowing some wildfires to be fought using disaster funds, a move aimed at providing budget stability to the Forest Service and Interior Department that would possibly free up more funding for logging, restoration and recreation projects. And a top Agriculture Department official said he could support a deal that would include limited National Environmental Policy Act reforms to expedite logging -- a key demand of Republicans and a significant number of Western Democrats. One lobbyist close to the negotiations said a deal appeared to be within grasp and that progress has been made mitigating concerns from fiscally conservative House leaders...more

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