Bill Introduced to Protect Communities from Catastrophic Wildfires
WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Westerman introduced H.R. 7315, the Protecting American Communities from Wildfire Act, on Thursday (December 13).
“As more and more Americans move closer to our nation’s forests, it is imperative that Congress protect our communities from the devastation of wildfire,” Westerman said. “The lack of large-scale forest management -- combined with a patchwork of State, local, Tribal, and Federal landowners -- has resulted in dangerous, unhealthy forests, which in turn has led to the catastrophic, deadly fires we see today.
“Congress must act to protect American lives, property, and watersheds. The Forest Service must be provided the management tools to quickly shield these at-risk communities, and further, Congress must provide landowners the incentives and the resources to implement sound management.”
H.R. 7315 accomplishes both goals. This act provides the Forest Service with the management tools they need to rapidly treat the Federal Forests in the Wildland-Urban Interface and simultaneously provides additional grant funding to at-risk communities, supporting programs ranging from the purchase of new firefighting equipment, to the FIREWISE Program.
Expedited Forest Management in The Wildland- Urban Interface
- Provides USFS the authority to prescribe forest treatment plans within the Wildland-Urban interface, creating a halo of managed timber around an at-risk community.
- The Wildland-Urban Interface is a term defined on the local level: at-risk communities can tailor the amount of protective treatment needed for their town.
- Provides USFS the authority to prescribe forest treatment plans around the watersheds which supply at-risk communities, ensuring the steady supply of clean drinking water
- Categorically excludes the prescribed action from lengthy NEPA review, ensuring that this critical protection is rapidly implemented.
Additional State Fire Assistance Funding
- Reauthorizes the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978 at $100 million a year from 2019 to 2024, a $20 million increase from current funding levels.
- This investment will be distributed as block grant funding to states looking to implement protective forest management, with programs ranging from technical assistance to community preparation, like FIREWISE.
- This funding will incentivize State, local, and Tribal landowners to ensure that protective forest management is implemented at the landscape level.
- With restoration in the Wildland-Urban interface costing millions annually, investing in preventative measures now will save taxpayers money over the long run.