Congressman Paul Gosar
          
 

For Immediate Release

Date: September 20, 2018

Contact: Emilio Navarrete

Emilio.Navarrete@mail.house.gov

Western Caucus Urges Leadership and Farm Bill Conferees to Include Active Forest Management Provisions in Final Bill

 

  


WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, members of the Congressional Western Caucus released the following statements after 40 Members of the House sent a bipartisan letter to the Farm Bill Conference Committee urging them to include important forestry provisions in the final conference report:

Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR-05): “Breaking records every wildfire season has become the new norm across the west, and this year has been no exception. This Congress has made a few positive strides in the fight against wildfire destruction but there’s still so much more that needs to be addressed. While our wildfire disasters out west don’t typically receive the kind of national attention as other natural disasters, the current laissez-faire approach to forest management may soon force the nation to pay attention. Without better stewardship of our forests, our forests remain susceptible to insects and disease, leaving them ripe for catastrophic wildfires.”

Chief Infrastructure and Forestry Officer Bruce Westerman (AR-04): “As Congress continues to debate sound forestry policy, hundreds of thousands of acres are burning up nationwide. Due to federal inaction, every single western state is plagued by unhealthy forests, leading to the deadly fires we have seen this year. It is proven science that the best way to prevent wildfire is active forest management, yet Congress continues to insist on slow- rolling new policies and needed reform within the Forest Service. The time for action is now, and that is why I have fought to include the bipartisan provisions of the Resilient Federal Forests Act included in the 2018 Farm Bill. I will continue to fight for these provisions as a Farm Bill conferee and will continue to advocate for healthy forests across the West. We cannot rest until we have policy that matches science and truly addresses the root problem in our forests.”

Chief Rules Officer Dan Newhouse (WA-04): “Standing by and watching as our forests go up in smoke does nothing to help the environment and continuing to neglect forest health while hoping for different results is just crazy. This summer, thousands of burned acres and smoky skies covering Central Washington attested once again to the need to improve the health of our forests. While Congress has made progress on budgeting and ending ‘fire borrowing,’ that’s only half the battle. The other side of a solution is to promote forest health through management reforms and reducing hazardous fuels. Central Washington has faced too many catastrophic wildfire seasons to continue neglecting our forests, and I hope our Senate colleagues take this opportunity to include much-needed provisions to improve forest management.”

Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04): “The West is experiencing one of the worst wildfire seasons in recent memory. Over the last month alone, we have seen more than 100 large active fires scorch nearly two million acres, kill at least 12 people and cause hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage. The active forest management provisions found in the House Farm Bill are necessary tools to mitigate the frequency and severity of catastrophic wildfires. Congress can act to improve forest and watershed health. Including these active forest management provisions in the final conference report will  help reverse years of federal mismanagement and greatly benefit the environment.”

Chief Defense and Interior Officer Chris Stewart (UT-02): “Unfortunately, the state of Utah has seen the devastating impacts of catastrophic wildfires due to years of federal mismanagement of our forests. The House of Representatives has taken necessary steps that will guarantee future wildfire relief by ensuring our federal forests are actively and properly managed. If our Senate colleagues are serious in curbing catastrophic fire, they must include our recommendations in the Farm Bill.”

Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (OR-02): “In Oregon and across the West, we have once again suffered the consequences of another unnaturally catastrophic wildfire season. Lives have been lost. Homes and property have been destroyed. Smoke has choked our skies as communities in Oregon and elsewhere in the nation have been trapped inside with some of the worst air quality in the world. The provisions in the House passed Farm Bill would bring needed change to the way we manage our forests to address the root cause of these fires. We can reduce red tape and streamline management projects to get more work done in the woods. We can remove the burned, dead trees while they still have value and replant our forests for the next generation. We can do all of this and improve the health of our forests and communities with the tools included in the House bill. I urge my colleagues to include these provisions in the Farm Bill we send to the President’s desk so we can take needed steps toward preventing these fires into the future.”

Chairman Emeritus Steve Pearce (NM-02): “This summer, our country has once again seen the severity wrought by wildfires on millions of acres. Urging the Farm Bill Conferees to include provisions in the new Farm Bill to bolster federal forestry management practices will go a long way in preventing these catastrophic fires, which are devastating for local communities, watersheds, and habitat for endangered species.”

Executive Vice-Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03): “The west is currently experiencing one of the worst wildfire seasons to date, resulting in the destruction of land, property and most tragically, loss of life. These large and frequent wildfires are the product of decades of misguided forest management strategies, which have left federal land management agencies focused on firefighting rather than on proactive forest management to prevent these disasters in the first place. We must take steps to reverse this trend, so it is imperative that the Conference Report to the 2018 Farm Bill include strong forest management provisions that will allow agencies to work together to remove dead and downed timber, mitigate disease infected trees and reduce hazardous fuels.”

Vice-Chairman for Indian Affairs and Oceans Don Young (AK-At Large): “The Roadless Rule is nothing more than an effort to end the multiple-use mandate of federal forest lands – something that is required by law, but too often ignored. Over 90% of the Tongass National Forest is inaccessible by road, resulting in trees dying of disease and infestation. By significantly limiting the areas available for logging and harvest, the Roadless Rule makes conservation of ecologically critical areas more difficult. I thank my colleagues for their support in exempting Alaska from this harmless and senseless rule.”

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01): “Wildfire season is at its worst in California. The Carr Fire quickly became one of the most devastating fires in the history of the North State, and we have decades of poorly managed federal forests to blame. We shouldn’t view worsening wildfires as simply inevitable, and instead focus on actionable solutions. As dead trees pile up and fires become increasingly severe, responsibly thinning our forests is now more important than ever. It’s imperative that any final conference report on the Farm Bill contain strong provisions to strengthen forest management practices. The House has approved a selection of reasonable and uncontroversial recommendations, and we expect the committee to seriously consider these provisions in the final report.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01): “We cannot prevent lightening from starting forest fires, but we can properly manage our national forests so that the fires can be stopped after they have started. The insanity of refusing to groom forests and allow fire breaks has caused millions of acres to burn unimpeded. Let’s use common sense, like that of previous decades when people managed forests instead of letting them turn into fire traps.”

Rep. Debbie Lesko (AZ-08): “On average, more than 1,500 wildfires occur in Arizona each year. So far in 2018, more than 155,000 acres have been destroyed by wildfire in our state. We need strong forestry provisions in this year’s Farm Bill that allow for better management to prevent and respond to forest fires in our region. I urge Conferees to include the House-passed version of the forestry title in the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill.”

Background:

On 06/21/2018, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act, otherwise known as the Farm Bill, with a recorded vote of 213-211. On 06/28/2018, the United States Senate passed H.R. 2 with a recorded vote of 86-11.

The House base bill includes 10 categorical exclusions that allow for active management of our nation’s forests and critical response.  The base bill also reauthorizes the Landscape Scale Restoration Program.

On Friday, a letter from 40 bipartisan Members of the House was sent to Farm Bill Conferees urging conferees and Leadership to include active forest management provisions in the final version of the Farm Bill. To view the letter, click HEREThe letter recommended the following policy adjustments be included in the forestry title of the final Farm Bill of 2018:

  • Allow existing and any new Healthy Forests Restoration Act authorities to be used within Fire Regimes IV and V. See Section 8321 of H.R. 2. 
  •  Facilitate the use of Good Neighbor Authority by expanding it to counties and tribes and codifying existing practices concerning the flow of contributions and receipts associated with these projects. See Section 8331 of H.R. 2 and Section 8624 of H.R. 2 EAS.
  • Accelerate post-fire restoration and reforestation projects through either a new categorical exclusion or, at the very least, by applying Sections 104 and 106 of HFRA to post-fire projects carried out under the Forest Service’s existing Emergency Situation Determination authority. See Sections 8312 and 8334 of H.R. 2.
  • Establish an Action, No-Action authority for Environmental Impact Statements and Environmental Assessments to reward, incentivize, and protect projects that are developed through a collaborative process with diverse stakeholders. See Section 8335 of H.R. 2.
  • Apply Section 106 of HFRA (“balance of harms” and other policies related to injunctions) to all forest management projects, and expressly clarify that courts must find that plaintiffs are “likely to succeed on the merits” before enjoining a forest management project. See Section 8336 of H.R. 2.
  • Establish and expand categorical exclusions for projects that restore watersheds, protect water quality, improve forest health, allow for critical response, address insect and diseases, and reduce the risk of wildfire. See Section 8107 and Sections 8311-8321 of H.R. 2 as well as Section 8611 of H.R. 2 EAS.
  • Streamline approval of, and afford tribes greater authority in, implementing projects under the Tribal Forest Protection Act. See Section 8401 and 8402 of H.R. 2.
  • Establish pilot arbitration authority and include litigation reform to more swiftly resolve disputes over important forest management projects. See Sections 301, 311, 811 and 812 of H.R. 2936 and (g) of Section 8339 of H.R. 2.
  • Update extraordinary circumstances regulations in order to allow expedited response. See Section 8503 of H.R. 2.
  • Improve consultation under the Endangered Species Act. See Section 8303 of H.R. 2.
  • Establish a voluntary pilot program that would allow a participating utility to conduct limited, proactive vegetation management work outside of its right-of-way on federal lands. This mitigation work should be conducted at the expense of the participating utility in order to better protect critical energy infrastructure from passing wildfires that start outside of the right of way. See Section 8502 of H.R. 2.
  • Fully remove what the Obama Administration called the potentially “crippling” impacts of the Cottonwood decision by applying to the “new information” trigger under the Endangered Species Act the same reforms that recent appropriations legislation established for the listing of species and designation of critical habitat. See H.R. 6567.
  •   Fully Empower states to have a greater role in cross boundary management and codify the Landscape Scale Restoration program. See S. 962 as well as Sections 8104 and 8509 of H.R. 2.
  • Exempt Alaska from the 2001 'Roadless Rule' and thereby boost forestry in several National Forest System units in which it has been artificially suppressed.  See Section 8337 of H.R. 2.
  • Allow new opportunities to conduct hazardous fuel removal on landscapes that cross federal, state, county and private property. See Section 8332 of H.R. 2.

 

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