May 13, 2013
Today during a visit to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, Interior Secretary Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack highlighted steps the federal government is taking to prepare for the wildfire season. Both Secretary Jewell and Secretary Vilsack highlighted the ongoing effort for collaboration between federal, state, local governments and private citizens.
But there is more that the federal government can be doing. This year, the fire potential is predicted to be above normal in much of the West. Active forest management is a key to fire prevention. According to DOI’s own press release, “more than 590 million acres of public lands are in significant need of restoration, including thinning and prescribed burning.” Chairman Hastings and members of the Committee on Natural Resources have been advocating for better forest management that would significantly lessen the threat of wildfires. Active forest management costs far less than fighting wildfires.
Last month, Chairman Hastings introduced H.R. 1526, the “Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act.” This legislation renews the federal government’s commitment to manage forest resources for the benefit of rural schools and counties by allowing active forest management. Due to the lack of healthy forest management, last year 44 times as many acres of U.S. Forest land burned in wildfire than were responsibly harvested.
At a Committee hearing on April 11th, witnesses agreed that healthy forest management will create jobs and prevent catastrophic wildfires. At the hearing, two additional bills to help prevent forest fires H.R. 1345, “Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act of 2013” by Representative Paul Gosar and H.R. 818, “Healthy Forest Wildfire Prevention Act of 2013” by Representative Tipton were examined. These common sense bills are a positive step forward to managing America’s forests in a safe, healthy, and productive manner that allows communities to grow their economies while at the same time protecting them from devastating wildfires.