Friday, December 16, 2016

Heitkamp law passes, Forest Service must consult localities about prescribed burns

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law Wednesday night that would require the U.S. Forest Service to consult local officials before initiating a prescribed burn on USFS lands when there is an extreme fire danger. U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Thune, R-S.D., passed Senate bill 3395, the Prescribed Burn Approval Act of 2016. The two senators introduced the legislation after the Pautre fire in 2013, which was a prescribed burn aiming to cover about 100 acres in northwestern South Dakota before escalating into a 16,000-acre uncontrolled fire that burned for several days destroying millions of dollars worth of property in North Dakota and South Dakota, according to Heitkamp's press release. "The Forest Service needs to listen when ranchers and first responders say conditions are unsafe for a burn — and this bill will help guarantee that happens," said Heitkamp, according to the press release. "The Pautre wildfire was completely preventable, making it obvious that the Forest Service hasn't done enough to listen to local communities in North Dakota and beyond. Our bipartisan bill will help prevent what happened in 2013 from happening again, which will help protect our ranchers, their property, and valuable grasslands."...  more

For those interested in the coordination issue I've embedded S. 3395 below. It basically bans prescribed burns when extreme fire conditions exist with one exception, and that is if they coordinate with state and local officials.

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