Jul 23, 2021 / Forestry

McMorris Rodgers Helps Lead Legislation to Mitigate Catastrophic Wildfires, Improve Forest Health

Washington, D.C. (July 23, 2021) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) this week joined House leaders in introducing the bipartisan Resilient Federal Forests Act to address the rapidly declining health of American forests and prevent catastrophic wildfires. Specifically, this bill would expedite environmental analysis, reduce frivolous lawsuits, and increase the pace and scale of critical forest restoration projects. 

“The devastating wildfires we’re seeing across Eastern Washington right now underscore the need for proactive forest management to prevent widespread damage to our communities,” said Rodgers. “We cannot allow decades of overregulation and legal charades to stall forest management efforts any longer. It’s time to cut through the red tape, give the Forest Service the tools they need to better manage our forests, and take the necessary steps to protect our communities from devastating wildfires.” 

More than 80 million acres of national forests including acreage in Colville and Umatilla National Forests are overgrown, fire-prone, and in dire need of active management. The Resilient Federal Forests Act restores forest health, increases resiliency to wildfire, and supports the economic revitalization of rural communities. 

Cathy joined Congressmen Dan Newhouse (WA-04) and Bruce Westerman (AR-04) in introducing this legislation. 

“Already this year, over a million acres have burned across the West,” said Newhouse. “In my home state of Washington, more acres have burned to date than in all of 2020. We no longer have time for conversations about how we can prevent these catastrophic wildfires – we must act. We know that wildfire prevention goes hand-in-hand with restoring healthy and resilient federal forests, and I’m proud to cosponsor Ranking Member Westerman’s Resilient Federal Forests Act because this is the action we need.”

“Record-breaking wildfires in the West repeatedly highlight the need for proactive, scientific forest management,” said Westerman. “Decades of mismanagement have led to insect infestation, hazardous fuel buildup and dead and decaying trees, creating tinderboxes for the smallest stray spark to ignite a raging inferno. It’s time for Congress to stop sitting on our hands and actually allow the Forest Service to use proven, scientific methods when managing our forests so that we can prevent these fires from occurring in the first place. Science shows forest management drastically improves the health of a forest, which is why the Resilient Federal Forests Act is so important. Every year we delay action means more lives, homes, property and wildlife habitats are destroyed by wildfires. There is no time to waste.”

The Resilient Federal Forests Act will: 

  • Utilize state-of-the-art science to triage the top 10 percent of high-risk firesheds.
  • Simplify and expedite environmental analyses to reduce costs and planning times of critical forest management projects, while also maintaining thorough environmental reviews.
  • Speed up essential forest management projects by ending frivolous litigation.
  • Give the Forest Service the necessary tools to restore watersheds, improve wildlife habitat, and protect critical infrastructure and public safety in wildland-urban interfaces.
  • Accelerate reviews for salvage operations and reforestation activities to encourage quick reforestation, remove dangerous hazard trees, and economically revitalize rural areas.
  • Incentivize collaborative projects of up to 30,000 acres to increase the pace and scale of active management. 
  • Create new, innovative authorities that increase tribal management of forestlands.
  • Codify the principles of shared stewardship and permanently reauthorize the Good Neighbor Authority to ensure states are equal partners in forest management activities.
  • Remove cumbersome interagency consultation requirements that delay forest management activities and attract obstructionist litigation.
  • Expand and improve existing authorities to address insect and disease infestations and increase resiliency to wildfires.

CLICK HERE to read the bill.

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