Rep. Gosar’s Wildfire Prevention Legislation Signed into Law

Feb 7, 2014 Issues: Agriculture, Economy and Jobs, Getting Things Done, Restoring Healthy Forests and Preventing Dangerous Wildfires, Wildfire Prevention

For Immediate Release
February 7, 2014

 

Contact: Garrett Hawkins
Garrett.Hawkins@mail.house.gov

Rep. Gosar’s Wildfire Prevention Legislation Signed into Law
‘Legislation will help make wildfires less frequent and less intense when they do occur’ 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Congressman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04) issued the following statement after President Obama signed into law the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (H.R.2642), also known as the Farm Bill, which included the majority of Rep. Gosar’s Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act (H.R.1345):

"When it comes to wildfires, 2013 wasn't a good year, which is why I’m especially proud that the majority of my wildfire prevention legislation was signed into law today. Arizona and the nation has suffered loss of life, loss of habitat and loss of resources as a result of recurring catastrophic wildfires. It took years but now good forest-management practices recognize that healthy forests must be thinned and managed in order to avoid tragedies. Although we are never going to prevent all fires, this legislation will help make wildfires less frequent, and less intense when they do occur. Moreover, these provisions allow tax dollars to be spent more effectively by focusing on prevention as opposed to suppression, which is significantly more costly. 

"While this legislation is a great start, we still must pass other important provisions of my bill that weren’t included in the Farm Bill. These include provisions in a House-passed forest health package that will provide critical revenues for education in rural communities and allow for active forest management on a larger scale. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to help prevent another catastrophic wildfire season by acting swiftly to pass this legislation."

BACKGROUND
The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (H.R.2642) contained the majority of Rep. Gosar’s Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act. Below are the specific sections of the Farm Bill that incorporate Rep. Gosar’s wildfire provisions and what they accomplish: 

  • SEC. 8204. INSECT AND DISEASE INFESTATION: Authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to designate "critical areas" in the National Forest System based on a set of criteria that consider deteriorating forest health. Projects within those areas will be streamlined. These reforms are important because the Forest Service is hampered in its ability to thin diseased areas affected by bark beetle infestation - more than 40 million acres of infested forest since 2003 - by the amount of analysis required beforehand.
  • SEC. 8205. STEWARDSHIP END RESULT CONTRACTING PROJECTS: This provision allows the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to enter into contracts and agreements, which result in the restoration of watersheds, hazardous fuels reduction and other active management services that improve overall forest health. My language provides Congressional guidance to the field about how to calculate the federal government’s portion of liability concerning stewardship end-result contracting projects, which are a major bureaucratic struggle with new stewardship contracts. 
  • SEC. 8206. GOOD NEIGHBOR AUTHORITY: Allows states, under agreements with the Secretaries of Interior and/or Agriculture, to take charge of and execute forest, rangeland, and watershed restoration and protection services on applicable federal lands. Such authority was granted to some states on a limited basis as riders in other types of legislation. This language expands that authority to all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Rep. Gosar’s Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act passed the House of Representatives last September as part of a larger forest health package, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act (H.R. 1526). The Senate recently held a hearing on this legislation. 

Additionally, Rep. Gosar spearheaded a letter, signed by 18 of his colleagues, to Farm Bill conferees requesting the inclusion of the above provisions as well as language for the National Forest Service to lease five additional aerial tankers to help combat wildfires. This request was included in the final version of the Farm Bill, which was enacted today. Click HERE to view the letter.  

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