Published since 1946
Wildfire Bill Passes House
The Residual Federal Forests Act (H.R. 2936) was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on November 1 by a vote of 232-188. The legislation seeks to expedite the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of forest management practices on federal lands intended to increase resilience to wildfires. These activities could include categorical exclusions for projects that deal with insect infestations, post-wildfire salvage operations, treatments of invasive vegetation, replanting after fires, management for early successional habitats, and other actions. In addition, the bill expands the number of acres that can be treated to 10,000 acres but could reach 30,000 acres with collaborative local engagement in project development. The legislation also adjusts budget caps to provide spending for wildfire in an effort to prevent borrowing funds from non-fire related accounts during difficult fire seasons.
“Our nation’s federal lands play a vital role in maintaining healthy forests that are resilient to threats at a landscape level from fire, pests, disease and insects,” wrote members of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners in a June 26 letter to House Resources Committee leadership supporting the legislation. “Through incentives and expedited process, consistent with informed science, the bill will help ensure that timber harvest and the creation of young forest habitat for wildlife remains viable on US Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. Additionally, it remedies the budget fire-funding problem (borrowing from other line items) that our country faces when fighting catastrophic wildfires.”
The Senate currently does not have a specific companion bill that mirrors the legislation. However, on November 2, Senator John Barrasso introduced the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act (S. 2.068) that includes similar provisions except for the wildfire budget fix.