NEED FOR IMPROVED FOREST MANAGEMENT: Improving forest management is critical to addressing the wildfires that are devastating communities and ecosystems across the country.
- When we fail to manage our Nation’s forests, including through the reduction of dead, diseased, and over-crowded forests, the threat of wildfires is exacerbated.
- Wildfires are devastating our communities:
- Data from the National Interagency Fire Center show that 52,000 fires have burned over 8.3 million acres of land across the country in 2018.
- Over 15,000 residences have been destroyed by wildfire so far this year.
- Earlier this year, the Mendocino Complex fire in Northern California grew to be the largest in State history with nearly 460,000 acres burned.
- The Camp Fire currently raging is the deadliest in California’s history.
- Wildfire suppression efforts by the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (Forest Service) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) cost more than $2.9 billion in 2017.
- Remediation efforts and health impacts will cost millions more.
LEGISLATIVE ACTION: Congress can help prevent further wildfire devastation by passing a Farm Bill that includes robust fire protection and forest management provisions.
- Currently, the House and Senate are working towards a conference Farm Bill to fund agricultural priorities for the upcoming year.
- This legislation should ultimately include provisions from the House-passed Farm Bill that will empower Federal agencies to actively manage our forests and aggressively fight wildfires.
- The House Farm Bill included key provisions to:
- Renew and expand the authority for the Forest Service and DOI to remove diseased and insect-infested trees from Federal lands.
- Grant counties and tribes “Good Neighbor Authority,” an existing program that enables States to perform forest management services on National Forest System lands.
- Further congressional action is needed on a number of fronts, including to expedite:
- Salvage operations in response to catastrophic events.
- Management on Forest Service lands surrounding at-risk communities.
- New language is also needed to remedy the 9th Circuit Court’s decision, which delays forest management by imposing unnecessary procedural requirements.
PROTECTING OUR COMMUNITIES: Passing the Farm Bill will help to build on efforts launched by the Trump Administration to improve forest management.
- In March, the President signed legislation improving the funding process for the Forest Service and DOI’s wildfire suppression operations.
- Before this fix, the funding structure had forced the firefighting agencies to take funds from prevention programs to cover the rising costs of responding to wildfires.
- Last year, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke directed DOI to adopt aggressive practices to prevent and combat the spread of wildfires.
- The Department of Agriculture recently announced a new outcome-based strategy to reduce fire risk and improve forest conditions.