House panel advances bill to improve forest management, fire prevention
WASHINGTON – The House Natural Resources Committee gave preliminary approval Thursday to a bill aimed at reducing catastrophic wildfires on federal lands by better managing forests before fires and quickly restoring them afterward.
The Resilient Federal Forests Acts of 2015 would give the U.S. Forest Service the ability to quickly remove dead trees, would streamline environmental review rules in some instance and would give greater flexibility for funding fire prevention programs, among other changes. The 44-page bill would do that without creating any new federal requirements or red tape, its supporters said.
“I think it unties the hands of foresters and the Forest Service and allows them to do their job so we can have healthy and productive forests,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, the lead sponsor of the bill. “I can’t really find any downsides to it.”