The Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act of 2013, which proposes to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire on areas managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management identified as high-risk, has been reintroduced by Arizona Representative Paul Gosar with bipartisan support.
This bill would streamline analyses performed by the National Environmental Policy Act in those areas, expediting fuels-reduction activities, like livestock grazing and timber thinning.
It would also allow hazardous fuels-reduction projects to move forward under emergency provisions in the Endangered Species Act when threatened or endangered species are at risk. The bill currently has 13 co-sponsors and support from the Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, with PLC President Brice Lee and NCBA President Scott George saying it addresses a significant issue by reducing administrative delays and encouraging better forest health and economic development.
As local stewards of the land and natural resources, National Association of Conservation Districts President Earl Garber says conservation districts remain concerned about the devastating impact of wildfires. In 2012, more than 9-million acres were burned in one of the worst fire seasons the U.S. has seen in the last few decades - according to Lee. He says everyone bears the burden of habitat loss, and the PLC hopes Congress acts swiftly to pass this legislation so ranchers and entire communities don’t remain vulnerable during what may be another devastating fire season this year. Garber is pleased with this proactive proposal to provide local land managers with the tools they need to help combat and mitigate the effects of destructive wildfires on the landscape.