WILDFIRE PREVENTION & MITIGATION ACT OF 2017
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 introduce the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017.
The legislation will enhance forest management to more effectively mitigate severity of catastrophic wildfires. The bill will also provide increased protections for wildlife habitat threatened by wildfires.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT THE WILDFIRE PREVENTION & MITIGATION ACT
“In Wyoming, and across the West, catastrophic fires have destroyed people’s homes, devastated wildlife, and claimed lives. State and local forest managers need the flexibility to remove trees and dead wood that fuel these terrible fires. Our bill will provide commonsense tools and cut unnecessary red tape. We must act quickly to address the risk these fires pose to both people and wildlife.” - Chairman John Barrasso
"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. 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.” - Senator Hatch
“After nearly a quarter century of very-limited-to-hands-off forest management, federal forest fire suppression costs have continued to grow. 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.” - Senator Thune
“We have had one of the most devastating fire seasons this year across the West and in Montana. We need forest management reform now to reduce the severity and intensity of wildfires and create more good-paying jobs.” - Senator Daines
“I write as CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation to strongly support the discussion draft of the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017….The discussion draft contains federal forest management reforms that are science-based, common sense, direly needed, and readily implementable without reducing or constraining the opportunity for public review.” - National Wild Turkey Federation CEO Rebecca Humphries
“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Stands in full support of the comprehensive legislation before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to expedite forest management activities on public lands, discourage litigation that has needlessly stopped necessary forest management projects and improve habitat for greater sage grouse and mule deer.” - Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation President David Allen
“The association urges the committee to advance the legislation and provide our federal agency partners with the tools necessary to manage our forest resources, wildlife habitat and enhance collaborative resources management opportunities. Increasing certainty will go to great lengths to warding off catastrophic fires and helps ensure a healthy forest, maintain viable wildlife habitats and protect our very critical watersheds and water supplies.” - Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank
“The Family Farm Alliance believes enactment of the draft Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017 would improve our Western landscapes, protect our valuable water supplies from the devastating effects of wildfires, and allow agencies to improve habitat and restore ecosystems for the benefit of federally important species to allow continued agricultural use of our public lands.” - Family Farm Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen
“As Congress continues to consider a response to the wildfires that defined the summer of 2017 for much of the American West, the undersigned sportsmen’s conservation organizations—who collectively represent many American hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts—write today in support of the draft Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017.” - 21 sportsmen’s conservation organizations
“On behalf of the National Association of Counties, the only organization representing the nation’s 3,069 counties, parishes, and boroughs, I write to express support for recent draft legislation to discourage litigation against land management projects, to promote the active management of our nation’s federal lands and forests, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and ensure equitable sharing of forest revenues with county governments.” - National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase and Western Interstate Region President Joel Bousman
“We support reforms that enable collaborative, active forest management, streamline the environmental review process, address the unsustainable practice of fire borrowing, and provide an alternative to the current unworkable litigation process. We believe it is critical that both forest management reforms and resolution of the fire borrowing issue are addressed in any legislation to ensure on-the-ground forest restoration activities can proceed at the pace and scale of the problem. We recognize and appreciate that these elements are addressed in the draft Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017. We support the need for the forest management and ecosystem restoration activities identified in this legislation and encourage the committee to continue this laudable effort.” - 7 water management stakeholder organizations
GROUPS THAT SUPPORT THE WILDFIRE PREVENTION & MITIGATION ACT INCLUDE:
SPECIFICALLY, THE WILDFIRE PREVENTION & MITIGATION ACT 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 draft legislation, click here.