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Bishop, Roberts, Westerman Push Reforms to Improve Federal Forest Health, Wildfire Budgeting

July 16, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Friday (July 15), House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR) participated in a press call to discuss pending wildfire and forest management legislation (H.R. 2647 / S. 3085).

Click here to listen to a recording of the call.

“Last year, more than 10 million acres went up in smoke due to decades of unmanaged forests and our government spending more on fighting fires and special interest groups in court than managing the forests in scientifically-proven ways,” Rep. Westerman stated during the call.

Members outlined concerns with inadequate federal efforts to reduce the concentration of hazardous fuels in overgrown forests.  The Forest Service is currently treating just 1% of the forest lands that the agency has identified as high-risk and susceptible to wildfires.

In reference to H.R. 2647 and S. 3085, Bishop stated: “this framework gives agencies a responsible budget fix and the tools they’ve been calling for to finally begin treating forests at a pace and scale that is needed to protect our communities.”

For basic treatments or a routine thinning project, an Environmental Impact Statement can cost the Forest Service a minimum of a million dollars and over 3 years to complete. “With its current, woefully inadequate and expensive self-imposed process, it’s no wonder the Forest Service currently treats just 3 million out of 60 million acres at high risk to wildfire,” Bishop stated.

“We need a new strategy that focuses on scientifically based, sustainable forestry management,” Rep. Westerman stated. “To do this, we'll have to rein in frivolous lawsuits that regrettably have become the tool of choice for small groups with special interests. With proper management and new provisions for catastrophic events, we can end fire-borrowing in a cost-effective manner.”

“As the loss of life, property and environmental damage grows, we cannot afford to just throw more money at the problem. We must address the root cause,” Bishop stated.

Background:

On July 9, 2015, H.R. 2647 (Rep. Westerman), the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, passed the House. The bipartisan bill would address the growing threat of catastrophic wildfire by simplifying environmental process requirements, reducing project planning times, and expanding forest management flexibility to improve the health and resiliency of our forests.

On June 22, 2016, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, introduced S. 3085, the Emergency Wildfire and Forest Management Act of 2016. Similar to the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, S. 3085 proposes a responsible solution to “fire-borrowing” with much needed reforms to improve forest heath on federal lands. 

Click here to view a summary of H.R. 2647.

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