Western Caucus Pushes for Important Forestry Provisions

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Washington, April 12, 2019 | Emilio Navarrete | comments
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Members of the Western Caucus released statements pushing for important forestry provisions after Western Caucus Members led and submitted multiple submissions for Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations bills in order to ensure active management of our nation's forests, prevent catastrophic wildfires and protect our communities.
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For Immediate Release

Date: April 12, 2019

Contact: Emilio Navarrete

Emilio.Navarrete@mail.house.gov



Western Caucus Pushes for Important Forestry Provisions
 


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Members of the Western Caucus released statements pushing for important forestry provisions after Western Caucus Members led and submitted multiple submissions for fiscal year 2020 Appropriations bills in order to ensure active management of our nation's forests, prevent catastrophic wildfires and protect our communities:

Chief Agriculture and Business Officer Doug LaMalfa (CA-01): "Last year was a devastating year for wildfires – and nowhere was hit harder than Northern California. We must improve forest management policies if we want to prevent similar disasters from happening again. That’s why I’ve authored language to push for strong reforms in the 2020 Appropriations bills that will improve the health of our forests and watersheds. It’s irresponsible to spend increasing billions fighting fires when we could better use the funds to reduce fuels to improve the resiliency of our federal forests. Our focus should be to reform the rules that prevent proper forest management and reduce the risk of catastrophic fires. There’s a lot at stake – homes, lives, entire communities, and our environment – and it’s time we take action to institute real reforms that can prevent future catastrophic wildfires."

Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): "Catastrophic wildfires last year claimed hundreds of lives, destroyed tens of thousands of homes and caused tens of billions of dollars in property damage. I have heard heartbreaking stories from people that  lost loved ones and everything they owned due to the United States' failure to manage our nation's forests. I refuse to let our communities continue to be victimized due to inaction. The fact that 80 million acres of the National Forest System are currently considered moderate to high risk for catastrophic wildfire is unacceptable. Larger and more complex fires have shifted firefighting on federal lands from a seasonal to a year-round activity. Congress and the federal government should adjust accordingly. Instead of spending billions of dollars on the back end to put out wildfires, new tools and resources should be provided upfront to prevent these disasters. Including the important active management and forestry provisions in the fiscal year 2020 bills that were submitted by Members of the Western Caucus will save lives, protect our communities and help reverse years of federal mismanagement."

House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Greg Walden (OR-02): "Communities in Oregon and across the West will once again face the threat of catastrophic wildfires and air choking smoke this summer. It does not have to be this way and we should not accept increasingly devastating fires as the new normal. While we have made significant progress alongside the Trump Administration in passing into law significant reforms to forest management, there is much more that needs to be done. It’s past time that we allow our forest managers to clean up the burned, dead timber after a fire in our federal forests and replant a new forest for the next generation, just as we do on state, county, and private forest lands in Oregon. We know that active forest management can reduce the size and intensity of wildfires by 75 percent. We know that active forest management can reduce the carbon emissions from wildfires by up to 80 percent. We know that simple changes to federal policy will go a long way to protect the health of our forests, our air quality, and most importantly our communities. The upcoming appropriations bill is an excellent opportunity to provide additional resources for active forest management and proactive wildfire prevention, and I am committed to passing these important forestry provisions into law."

Chief Infrastructure and Forestry Officer Bruce Westerman (AR-04): "No matter which side of the political aisle you fall on, we can agree that action is necessary to avoid future catastrophic wildfires. The physical, emotional and monetary costs of wildfires stem from improper forest management, which is why long-term remedies are so important. The Trump administration has demonstrated time and again their willingness to include forest management funding in the federal budget, as well as increase commitment to management programs. We can’t afford to fiddle while the West burns any longer. I hope to continue working with my colleagues on legislation like the Resilient Federal Forestry Act to reduce the threat of wildfires in the years to come." 

Executive Vice-Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03): "Creating and maintaining healthy forests will ultimately depend on a more proactive approach to forest management. Streamlining permitting and removing unnecessary regulatory burdens to treatment projects, as well as ensuring robust state and local resources will help increase overall forest health, maintain healthy watersheds, and protect wildlife in Colorado.  I am proud to join so many on the Western Caucus to request funding now in the hopes that we help protect communities from future devastation."

Chief Rules Officer Dan Newhouse (WA-04): "I often hear from constituents and forest managers that there are two ways to remove trees from the forest: either through active forest management or because they are consumed in a forest fire. In the 115th Congress, the House passed legislation to give the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management additional management tools to improve the health of our forests, but the Senate failed to act on that bill. We can’t let that happen again because the high cost of wild fires for communities across the nation – and especially in Central Washington – will only get higher."

Rep. Russ Fulcher (ID-01): "No one cares for the land like those who work and play on them, and there have been dire consequences for the way the land in Idaho is currently being managed by outside forces. Some of Idaho’s greatest gems are going up in flames. These appropriations requests will highlight the need for Idaho to have an active role in the management of our forests."


Background:

Western Caucus Members recently led and submitted multiple submissions for Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations bills in order to ensure active management of our nation's forests, prevent catastrophic wildfires and protect our communities. 
  
2017 was one of the worst wildfire seasons in history with 71,499 fires burning approximately 10 million acres. The Forest Service spent more than $2.5 billion on suppression costs in the 2017 fiscal year alone - a new record. 2018 was another terrible fire season with 58,083 wildfires burning approximately 8.8 million acres. 

The Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California was the largest fire in state history with 459,123 acres burned. The Carr Fire in Northern California claimed eight lives and destroyed more than 1,600 structures. These two fires destroyed 8,900 homes and 329 businesses costing more than $840 million in insured losses. The Camp Fire was the costliest disaster in the world last year, costing more than $12.5 billion in insured losses, claiming 88 lives and destroying nearly 19,000 structures, roughly 14,000 of which were homes.  

Mismanagement by federal agencies has left our forests vulnerable to insects and disease and ripe for catastrophic wildfires. The system is broken, has resulted in the loss of life and significant harm to our communities. We need additional forest management authorities and resources for active management and we need them now.

The 5 important forestry submissions led by Members of the Western Caucus include:
  1. Western Caucus language request that supports the Trump Admin’s active management legislative reforms proposed in the DOI and Forest Service Budgets.

    This submission supports the Forest Service and Department of the Interior’s proposed packages of active management legislative reforms. According to the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior, their proposed legislative packages "would provide categorical exclusions on national forest lands and on Interior lands for active forest management, including the ability to harvest dead, dying, or damaged trees as well as proactive fuels management, including the use of fuel breaks."

    17 Members submitted this submission including: Reps. Paul Gosar, Biggs, Rob Bishop, Cook, Gianforte, Hagedorn, Hice, Hunter, LaMalfa, Lamborn, McClintock, McKinley, Meadows, Jason Smith, Tipton, Thompson, Westerman.

    Click HERE to view the text of the submission.

  2. Rep. LaMalfa language request seeking inclusion of important forestry reform provisions in the FY 2020 base text.

    This submission advocates for several important forest provisions, many of which have passed the House before, including “Action/No Action”, several necessary Categorical Exclusions, “Balance of Harms” provisions, litigation reforms and other forest health initiatives. This provisions will improve the health of our nation's watersheds and forests.

    14 Members submitted this submission including: Reps. LaMalfa, Gosar, Biggs, Rob Bishop, Cook, Duncan, Gianforte, Hagedorn, Hunter, Lamborn, Meadows, McClintock, Tipton, Westerman

    Click HERE to view the text of the submission. Click HERE to view the associated language file.

  3. Rep. Westerman programmatic request supporting robust funding for improvements and maintenance of Forest Service roads.

    The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) road network includes more than 370,000 miles of roads and 6,200 bridges. Road and bridge needs comprise more than $3 billion of USFS’ $5.5 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Many isolated communities around the country depend on USFS roads to connect them to high-use recreation sites and larger cities. This submission seeks to ensure the proper management and repair of roads and bridges already in the USFS inventory.

    16 Members submitted this submission including: Reps. Westerman, Gosar, Biggs, Rob Bishop, Brady, Cheney, Delgado, Hunter, LaMalfa, Lamborn, McClintock, Meadows, Stauber, Tipton, Thompson, Yoho

    Click HERE to view text of the submission.
  4. Western Caucus programmatic request urging prioritization of bark beetle treatment and hazardous fuels reduction.

    Bark beetles have caused significant damage on roughly 100,000 square miles of forest in the western United States alone. In Colorado, the spruce beetle epidemic continued last year, spreading across 178,000 new acres. In fact, spruce beetles have killed millions of trees on more than 1.8 million acres in Colorado since 2000. In Utah, more than 2.2 million acres have been vulnerable to bark beetle infestations. The Forest Service reports that the mountain pine beetle has killed trees on more than six million acres across western and central Montana during the last 16 years on record. An additional 27 million trees, mostly conifers, died throughout California since November 2016, bringing the total number of trees that have died due to drought and bark beetles in California to an historic 129 million on 8.9 million acres. The submission requests robust resources for combating the bark beetle epidemic.

    9 Members submitted this submission including: Reps. Gosar, Biggs, Rob Bishop, Hunter, LaMalfa, Lamborn, McClintock, Tipton, Westerman

    Click HERE to view text of the submission.

  5. Western Caucus programmatic request that supports funding for the Trump Admin’s active management programs.

    This submission seeks to prioritize funding for forward-thinking, active management strategies that combat catastrophic wildfires before they get started and improve overall forest and watershed health. Specifically, this effort seeks to ensure the active management funding priorities found in the President’s budget are met.

    14 Members submitted this submission including: Reps. Gosar, Biggs, Rob Bishop, Hagedorn, Hice, Hunter, LaMalfa, Lamborn, McClintock, Meadows, Jason Smith, Tipton, Thompson, Westerman.

    Click HERE to view the text of the submission.



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