Ending the cycle of devastating wildfires

June 23, 2017
by Congressman Bruce Westerman

On Tuesday (June 20), I introduced the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017. The bill, originally introduced in 2015, has one overriding goal – to make our federal forests healthy again through sound science and management.

As highlighted by the fires across the southeast United States in 2016 and the west coast in 2015, our forests have been neglected for too long. I stated in a Natural Resources Committee hearing Thursday (June 22) that federal forests have become overgrown, disease and bug infested, fire-prone thickets partially due to no active forestry management, and unfortunately this year looks to be another challenging wildfire season.

It is reported that 58 million acres of national forest land are at high or very high risk of severe wildfire. These are the kind of severe wildfires cost our states, counties, and municipalities hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from, the kind of wildfires that threaten endangered species habitat, and the types of wildfires that can be better mitigated through sound forest science. In an October 2015 editorial I co-wrote with Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader of Oregon, we noted the costs for homeowners who “face staggering losses that will likely soar into the billions. With fires continuing to grow, more homes and lives are at risk.”

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