The U.S. House of Representative's Natural Resources Committee passed the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, H.R. 1526, which is legislation designed to prevent the continuation of catastrophic wildfire events by improving federal forest management. The bill, passed on a voice vote, was offered by Committee Chairman Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and includes prescriptive measures offered by various western congressional members whose districts are threatened by catastrophic wildfire and forest mismanagement.
This legislation includes Rep. Paul Gosar's (R-Ariz.) Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act, which was introduced as a stand-alone bill earlier in 2013. Gosar's legislation would put hard deadlines on analyses performed under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in those areas with excessive fuel loads, expediting livestock grazing and timber thinning for the purposes of hazardous fuels reduction while increasing forest and economic health.
"Decades of mismanagement have turned our U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands into a tinderbox," said Public Lands Council president and Hesperus, Colo., rancher, Brice Lee. "Over the years, ranchers who count on the grass resources for their livelihoods have been told they must scale back grazing. Not only has this been economically damaging for their families and their communities, it has also contributed to a massive overload of fuel. H.R. 1526 sets this upside-down situation straight."
Also included in the bill is Rep. Scott Tipton's (R-Colo.) Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act. Tipton's bill takes further steps to reduce impediments to fuel-reduction projects brought by NEPA analysis.
"We can't afford to see another year like last year, where livestock were killed by wildfire, thousands of head had to be shipped to temporary pastures, and hay was in short supply," said Lee. "But again, we're facing very similar dry conditions this year. Swift passage of H.R. 1526 is of the essence."