Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thune amendment seeks tighter control of prescribed burns

Tighter controls on prescribed burns by federal agencies were proposed Tuesday as an amendment to congressional wildfire and forest-management legislation. The amendment was offered by U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and adopted by unanimous consent during a meeting of the Senate Agriculture Committee. If enacted into law with the broader legislation, the amendment would require federal agencies to coordinate with state and local fire officials before authorizing a controlled burn when the National Fire Danger Rating System indicates an extreme fire danger. The amendment would also require the chief of the U.S. Forest Service to submit an annual report to Congress detailing the prescribed burns conducted during the preceding year. “We’ve seen in South Dakota federal agencies initiate prescribed burns in the past three years that have burned out of control,” Thune said Tuesday to the Senate Ag Committee. The prime example is the 2013 Pautre Fire, which Thune said began as a planned 100-acre prescribed burn on federal grassland in northwestern South Dakota but escaped to become a 16,000-acre wildfire. Numerous landowners suffered property damage in the fire, and some are involved in an ongoing lawsuit against the federal government...more

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