Saturday, July 08, 2017

Congress should pass Resilient Federal Forests Act to address wildfire threat

The 2017 wildfire season is reigniting a national discussion on the causes of catastrophic wildfires and the solutions that are needed to protect forests, property and human lives in the future. Fortunately there’s a balanced solution now moving through Congress that will help restore overgrown and fire-prone forests, while creating new jobs across the nation. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), the only forester in Congress, has introduced the bipartisan Resilient Federal Forests Act (HR 2936) to give the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management the tools and resources they need to better manage our public lands. The legislation has already been approved by the House Natural Resources Committee and could soon receive a vote on the floor of the U.S. House. Congress should pass this legislation without delay, because the Forest Service estimates that at least 58 million acres of national forest are at high, or very high, risk of catastrophic wildfire. Due to bureaucracy, litigation and the unsustainable costs of fighting today’s mega-fires, the agency treats only a small fraction of this amount on a yearly basis. The Forest Service has also identified over 1.1 million acres in need of reforestation as a result of these fires. Without action we will continue to lose more forest lands that support rural economies, recreation and wildlife habitat. The Resilient Federal Forests Act works by addressing the bureaucracy and litigation issues that drive federal forest management today. For example, Forest Service employees typically spend 40 percent of their time doing paperwork instead of managing our forests. Thanks to analysis paralysis and the fear of litigation, it can take up to four years for the agency to develop and implement projects that restore forests back to health. Meanwhile our forests and forested communities suffer...more

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