Click here to watch Mr. Crapser’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 Bill Crapser, Wyoming state forester and administrator of the Wyoming State Forestry Division, to the committee. Crapser was testifying before the committee at a hearing on the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017.
Barrasso introduced Crapser to the committee prior to his testimony. “Bill, I am very pleased that you have joined us today. You has served as the Wyoming state forester since 2003. As part of your leadership of the Wyoming State Forestry Division, you know that collaborative work across the many private, state, and federal boundaries is key to healthy forests across Wyoming.
“As a key member of Governor Mead’s Task Force on Forests, Bill helped to develop a series of recommendations to reduce the threat of destructive wildfire through vegetation management to enhance forest health and wildlife habitat across migration corridors, and to expand outdoor recreation opportunities in healthy forests.
“Bill provides critical expertise and is a valuable resource when addressing challenging issues like those we will discuss today,” said Barrasso.
In his written testimony, Crapser detailed some of the challenges facing federal forest managers. “Much of the challenge for federal managers is due to overly burdensome environmental regulations that are, in many cases, doing more harm than good to Wyoming’s forests,” said Crapser. Essential wildfire prevention measures are not being taken because of bureaucratic red tape, said Crapser. “Federal managers are not aggressively thinning or using prescribed burning or other tools on our state’s federal forests in large measure because of expensive and time-consuming environmental analysis processes.”
Crapser detailed how the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017 would help address these forest management hurdles. “Streamlining the implementation of the Endangered Species Act will be helpful. Arbitration to resolve disputes will be helpful. Restoration targets will be helpful,” he said.
Increasing the use of categorical exclusions (CE’s) for at-risk forests would also aid in wildfire prevention. “CE’s are environmental documents which the agency can complete in months instead of years. The ability to use CE’s for making decisions on salvaging burned and beetle killed timber so that the wood will still have value when sold, will be most helpful,” said Crapser. These salvage sales play a critical role in funding forest restoration in Wyoming. “If the wood loses its value awaiting environmental studies, then the wood is not sold and there is no funding for reforesting our federal forests.”
Crapser also emphasized that the proper management of federal forests is critical to the health of forests on state and private lands. “If state land managers or private landowners treat their forested lands and the federal forests are still overgrown, fire-prone thickets, we have not addressed the problem,” he said. The Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017 will address these needs. “While this bill focuses on federal forests, it will also significantly help all of the nation’s forests and the communities which depend on them.”
For more information on Crapser’s testimony, click here.
The legislative language of the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017 was released this week by U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), with Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John Thune (R-SD), and Steve Daines (R-MT).
The draft 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.