Westerman, Western Caucus Members Introduce Legislation to Improve Land Management, Prevent Wildfires

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Congressional Western Caucus Vice Chair and Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Bruce Westerman (AR-04) introduced the Resilient Federal Forests Act with the support of Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) and Western Caucus Members from rural communities across the country. This comprehensive land management legislation aims to restore healthy federal lands and forests throughout the United States to increase resiliency and prevent catastrophic wildfires.
 
“Already this year, over a million acres have burned across the West. In my home state of Washington, more acres have burned to date than in all of 2020,” said Chairman Newhouse. “We no longer have time for conversations about how we can prevent these catastrophic wildfires – we must act.  We know that wildfire prevention goes hand-in-hand with restoring healthy and resilient federal forests, and I’m proud to cosponsor Ranking Member Westerman’s Resilient Federal Forests Act because this is the action we need.”
 
"Record-breaking wildfires in the West repeatedly highlight the need for proactive, scientific forest management. Decades of mismanagement have led to insect infestation, hazardous fuel buildup and dead and decaying trees, creating tinderboxes for the smallest stray spark to ignite a raging inferno,” said Ranking Member Westerman. “It’s time for Congress to stop sitting on our hands and actually allow the Forest Service to use proven, scientific methods when managing our forests so that we can prevent these fires from occurring in the first place. Look at places like my home state of Arkansas where drought conditions and environmental stress haven’t been coupled with an increase in the number or intensity of forest fires. Why? Because Arkansas has a robust and prosperous forest economy through which we actively manage both our public and private forests. Science shows forest management drastically improves the health of a forest, which is why the Resilient Federal Forests Act is so important. Every year we delay action means more lives, homes, property and wildlife habitats are destroyed by wildfires. There is no time to waste."
 
The Resilient Federal Forests Act was introduced with the support of more than 70 bipartisan Members of Congress and over 85 organizations. Click here to learn more.
 
In addition to the overlying comprehensive legislation, Western Caucus Members introduced bills to address specific priorities to improve land management and wildfire prevention.
 
Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-04) introduced the Action Versus No Action Act, which requires the Forest Service to evaluate only two alternatives (the activity and the alternative of no action) during the development of an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) for forest management activities that meet certain criteria, such as being developed under a collaborative process or proposed by a resource advisory committee. Learn more.
 
Rep. Cliff Bentz (OR-02) introduced the Commonsense Coordination Act, which allows the Forest Service to utilize another agency’s categorical exclusion when implementing joint projects and allows agencies to utilize another agency’s established categorical exclusion for similar projects. Learn more.
 
Rep. Blake Moore (UT-01) introduced the Forest Improvements through Research and Emergency Stewardship for Healthy Ecosystem Development and Sustainability Act (FIRESHEDS Act), which utilizes cutting-edge Forest Service science to identify the highest risk firesheds across the country and incentivizes partnerships with states under the principles of shared stewardship to expedite the pace and scale of forest management projects. Learn more.
 
Rep. Matt Rosendale (MT-AL) introduced the Forest Litigation Reform Act of 2021, which limits frivolous and obstructionist lawsuits that delay or cancel critical forest management activities by limiting attorneys fees for activist litigants, requiring courts to balance the harms of the forest management activity versus the costs of inaction, and creating an arbitration pilot project as an alternative to lengthy, cumbersome judicial review procedures. Learn more.
 
Vice Chair Peter Stauber (MN-07) introduced the Healthy Forests for Hunters Act of 2021, which authorizes two categorical exclusions aimed at improving outdoor recreation opportunities, particularly for sportsmen and women. The first would create a categorical exclusion for early successional forests that promote habitat for certain wildlife species and the second categorical exclusion would expedite improvements at developed recreational sites and facilitate other recreational improvements. Learn more.
 
Rep. Mike Garcia (CA-25) introduced the Protecting and Restoring Our Trees by Enhancing Conservation and Treatments Act (PROTECT Act), which authorizes a 10,000 acre categorical exclusion under NEPA to address insects and disease, reduce hazardous fuels loads, protect municipal water sources and increase water yield, improve critical habitat and facilitate native species restoration, and remove dead or dying trees or trees. Incentivizes collaboration by allowing categorical exclusions of up to 30,000 acres for collaborative projects. Learn more.
 
Rep. Tom Tiffany (WI-08) introduced the Responding Aggressively to Prevent Insects and Disease Act (RAPID Act), which triples existing Forest Service categorical exclusions for insects and disease and wildfire resilience projects from 3,000 acres to 10,000 acres and adds Fire Regime Groups IV and V to increase the availability of the categorical exclusion. Learn more.
 
Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) introduced the Stop Causing Alarming Tree, Air, and Soil Trauma Resulting from Obstructive Progressives’ and Hypocritical Environmentalists’ Schemes Act (Stop CATASTROPHES Act), which authorizes a categorical exclusion under NEPA of up to 10,000 acres for certain activities when the purpose of those activities is to improve, restore, or reduce the risk of wildfire on Forest System or public lands. Authorized activities include the removal of certain trees and noxious or invasive weeds, hazardous fuel management, the creation of fuel and fire breaks, modification of fences for livestock, installation of erosion control devices, construction and maintenance of infrastructure benefiting wildlife habitat, performance of soil treatments, and use of herbicides. Learn more.
 
Vice Chair Doug LaMalfa (CA-01) introduced the Tribal Biochar Promotion Act of 2021, which creates a tribal and Alaska Native biochar demonstration project modeled on existing biomass demonstration projects to promote the commercialization and use of biochar, an innovative product with multiple applications made by burning excess biomass in the absence of oxygen. Demonstration projects will be located in areas with nearby lands at high-risk of wildfire or where the demand for biochar is high. Learn more.
 
Rep. Yvette Herrell (NM-02) introduced the Wildfire Prevention and Drought Mitigation Act of 2021, which authorizes a 10,000 acre categorical exclusion under NEPA to protect municipal or Tribal water sources, improve watershed health, restore water yield or quality, maintain or restore snowpack, and adapt forests to drought conditions. The bill allows for categorical exclusions of up to 30,000 acres for areas that are in a severe, extreme, or exceptional drought or have experienced any of those drought conditions in the previous 5 years. Learn more.
 
Rep. Jay Obernolte (CA-08) introduced the Salvaging American Lumber Via Action with Greater Efficiency Act (SALVAGE Act), which creates a categorical exclusion from environmental assessments and environmental impact statements for salvage and reforestation operations carried out on National Forest System or public lands, creates expedited procedures for environmental assessments in cases where the categorical exclusion was not used, streamlines salvaged timber sales, and prohibits restraining orders or injunctions against salvage and reforestation operations. Learn more.

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