Click here to watch Ms. Crowder’s testimony.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), welcomed Jessica Crowder, policy advisor to Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, to the committee. Crowder was testifying before the committee at a hearing entitled “Forest Management to Mitigate Wildfires: Legislative Solutions.” The hearing focused on forest management and the mitigation of catastrophic wildfires.
Barrasso introduced Ms. Crowder to the committee prior to her testimony. “I am pleased to first introduce Jessica Crowder, who serves as a policy advisor for Wyoming’s governor, Matt Mead. From her work for the governor’s office, and as a former policy analyst for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Jessica knows the value of strong coordination among state, federal, and local agencies.
“Jessica holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in range management, during which she studied post-fire activities, including grazing, following prescribed fire during summer months.
“Jessica’s a key member of the governor’s Task Force on Forests, which concluded January 2015, and she continues to work closely with me and my staff to develop forestry solutions for Wyoming. Jessica wears many hats and offers a unique perspective on the way fire affects forest health. Jessica, I appreciate you making the trip to be with us today, and I look forward soon to hearing your suggestions for improving forest health for the next generation,” said Barrasso.
In her written testimony, Crowder noted challenges facing Wyoming’s unmanaged forests. “The impacts of unmanaged forests crosses land ownership boundaries and impacts air, water, recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, livestock grazing, forest products and jobs,” said Crowder. “Dead trees in Wyoming pose a hazard for wildlife, livestock and humans. Downed trees make it difficult for people and animals to use an area. Forage and habitat quality and quantity for wildlife and livestock are reduced. It is difficult for managers to access areas for treatments, livestock management or recreation pursuits such as mountain biking, hunting and hiking.”
Threats to Wyoming as a result of unmanaged forests prompted Governor Mead to establish the Task Force on Forests. Crowder highlighted several task force recommendations to improve and enhance proper forest management. First, eliminate a provision in the 2014 farm bill that prohibits permanent roads to be constructed under the Good Neighbor Authority. Crowder described this prohibition as “cumbersome.” “[The provision] requires a separate contract to maintain and/or reconstruct permanent roads that are often necessary to complete projects allowed under Good Neighbor Authority,” said Crowder. Construction of permanent roads would boost proactive management of forests.
Wyoming faces many issues brought on by diseased and insect-infested forests. Increasing acreage allowed to be considered under insect and disease areas “would assist in addressing large landscape-scale treatments quickly and efficiently. It will take management on a larger scale than has occurred in recent years to effectively decrease wildfire risks,” said Crowder.
Another task force recommendation is to streamline the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). “NEPA is a procedural statue designed to disclose impacts and assist federal agencies in making decisions. Yet NEPA has evolved into a cumbersome and costly process often developed with the thought of defending against litigation in mind. NEPA analyses often contain unnecessary information in an effort to guard against or answer possible litigation. I believe this moves NEPA beyond the simple intent originally adopted,” said Crowder. “A change in the NEPA process, through either legislative action or informal agency actions such as manual updates, is necessary.”
For more information on Crowder’s testimony, click here.