Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.) this week introduced the Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act (H.R. 1345). The bill will allow the secretary of agriculture and the secretary of the interior to streamline projects to reduce hazardous fuel loads, thus reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire and protecting endangered species on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Authorized projects include timber thinning and livestock grazing. This will benefit the rural communities that need protection from wildfire and that count on the grazing and timber industries as their lifeblood.
Endangered species will benefit as well, as the bill calls for the inclusion of catastrophic fire risk assessments in recovery plans and critical habitat designations, and allows for hazardous fuels-reduction projects to go forth under existing emergency provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
This legislation will also save American taxpayer dollars. The federal government spends over $1 billion each year fighting fire. This does not account for any restoration activities or the dollars spent by state and local governments. Implementing the preventative measures proposed in this legislation will relieve those annual expenses.
Co-sponsors of the bill included Reps. Mark Amodei (Nev.), first name Michael Conaway (Texas), Kevin Cramer, (N.D.), Trent Franks(Ariz.), Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Stevan Pearce (N.M.), Matt Salmon (Ariz.), David Schweikert (Ariz.), Chris Stewart (Utah) and Greg Walden (Ore.).
The Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Arizona Cattle Growers were instrumental in drafting and promoting this legislation; the American Sheep Industry Association supported the effort.