WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), joined with Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John Thune (R-SD), and Steve Daines (R-MT) to formally introduce S. 2068, the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017.

The legislation will enhance forest management to more effectively mitigate the severity of catastrophic wildfires. The bill will also provide increased protections for wildlife habitat threatened by wildfires. On October 23, 2017, the senators released a discussion draft of the legislation.

“In the West, we know the widespread destruction wildfires can cause,” said Barrasso. “Catastrophic fires have taken lives, destroyed homes, and devastated species. The bill we are introducing will make it simpler for local leaders to do fire-prevention projects. Forest managers need the flexibility to remove excess brush and dead wood that fuel these destructive wildfires. These fires have lasting impacts long after the flames have been put out. Our bill is a commonsense way to help protect both communities and wildlife.”

"I’m thrilled to see continued progress with this important legislation. Wildfire continues to decimate Western communities, ruining sources of drinking water, destroying property, and even claiming lives,” Hatch said. “I believe this proposal will strengthen the Forest Service’s ability to engage in wildfire prevention, which carries the added benefit of improving wildlife habitat. It is imperative that we to return to a more balanced approach to forest management, not just fire management. I am confident that this bill will help foster safer, healthier forests in Utah and across the West for years to come.”

“After nearly a quarter century of very-limited-to-hands-off forest management, federal forest fire suppression costs have continued to grow,” said Thune. “We must take immediate steps to improve the health of our nation’s forestland and be more aggressive and proactive in forest management. I believe this legislation offers several common-sense solutions that would help solve our problem of declining forest health by allowing land management professionals to use more 21st Century land management techniques. Efficient and effective land management makes forests more resilient and better able to withstand fire, pests, and diseases. This bill, which includes provisions I’ve previously introduced that would greatly expand categorical exclusions and measures to reduce litigation risk, is an important step in the right direction.”

“We have had one of the most devastating fire seasons this year across the West and in Montana,” said Daines. “We need forest management reform now to reduce the severity and intensity of wildfires and create more good-paying jobs.”

Specifically, the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017 will:

  • Statutorily reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's Cottonwood decisions by codifying the position taken by the Obama administration that federal agencies are not required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a programmatic level when new critical habitat is designated or a new species is listed;
  • Direct the Department of Interior (DOI) to create a categorical exclusion (CE) for certain sage-grouse and mule-deer habitat vegetation projects that address areas affected by the encroachment of invasive pinyon and juniper trees;
  • Direct the Department of Agriculture to create a CE for immediate action in critical response situations due to disease and insect infestations, threats to watersheds, and other high-risk areas;
  • Call for streamlined environmental review for ecosystem restoration projects by requiring the U.S. Forest Service to consider only two alternatives during the planning process: an "action" alternative, and a "no action" alternative;
  • Establish or modify CEs for wildlife habitat improvement, forest thinning, and insect and disease infestation; and
  • Establish a five-year pilot arbitration process to allow alternative dispute resolution for forest activities that will result in binding decisions not subject to judicial review.

To view full text of the legislation, click here.

Background Information:

On September 27, 2017, the EPW committee held a hearing on “Forest Management to Mitigate Wildfires: Legislative Solutions.”

On October 25, 2017, the EPW Committee held a legislative hearing on the discussion draft entitled Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017.

A broad group of stakeholders have voiced support for the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017. Local leaders, conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts and others have outlined their support for the legislation.

Stakeholders who support the legislation include:

Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts

Wyoming County Commissioners Association

Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation

Wyoming Stock Growers Association

Wyoming Wool Growers Association

Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona

Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group

American Farm Bureau Federation

American Forest Resource Council

American Loggers Council

American Woodcock Society

Archery Trade Association

Associated California Loggers

Associated Logging Contractors of Idaho

Associated Oregon Loggers

Association of California Water Agencies

Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies

Association of O&C Counties

Black Hills Forest Resource Association

Black Hills Regional Multiple Use Coalition

Boone and Crockett Club

California Forestry Association

Campfire Club of America

Colorado River Water Conservation District

Colorado Timber Industry Association

Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation

Conservation Force

Court Boice, Curry County Commissioner

Delta Waterfowl

Family Farm Alliance

Federal Forest Resource Coalition

Forest Resources Association

Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association

Hardwood Federation

Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities

Houston Safari Club

Idaho Forest Group

Intermountain Forest Association

Michigan Forest Products Council

Minnesota Forest Industries

Minnesota Timber Producers Association

Missouri Forest Products Association

Montana Logging Association

Montana Wood Products Association

Mule Deer Foundation

National Alliance of Forest Owners

National Association of Counties

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

National Shooting Sports Foundation

National Water Resources Association

National Wild Turkey Federation

New Mexico Forest Industry Association

North America Grouse Partnership

Oregonians for Food and Shelter

Oregon Farm Bureau

Oregon Cattlemen's Association

Oregon Women In Timber

Pennsylvania Forest Products Association

Pheasants Forever

Placer County Water Agency

Professional Logging Contractors of Maine

Public Lands Council

Quail Forever

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Ruffed Grouse Society

Salt River Project

Sierra Cascade Logging Conference

Sierra Pacific Industries

South Tahoe Public Utility District

Southern Oregon Timber Industries Association

Tennessee Wildlife Federation

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Treated Wood Council

Utah Association of Counties

Washington Forest Protection Association

Washington Hardwoods Commission

West Virginia Loggers Council

Whitetails Unlimited

Wild Sheep Foundation

Wildfire Forever

Wildlife Management Institute

Wildlife Mississippi