A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Thursday to address severe wildfires in the West.
The legislation establishes a strategy for combating future wildfires like those that have burned millions of acres of forest so far this year.
The bill provides $100 million to help at-risk communities prepare for wildfires and requires firefighting agencies to use unspent suppression funds for preparedness activities ahead of future wildfire seasons.
It also establishes a pilot program for the Forest Service and the Department of Interior in which the agencies would “treat” the top 1 percent most at risk and least-controversial forest lands for future fires. That means removing excess trees, wood and shrubs that generally serve as fuel for wildfires.
“It's time to create new tools to reduce fire risk and help better protect our communities,” Cantwell said in a statement.
“By targeting our most vulnerable pine forests, this science-based pilot program gives the Forest Service tools to address wildfire in our most vulnerable forests and prioritizes cross-laminated timber.”
2017 has been an especially busy year for wildfires. According to government statistics, more than 50,000 fires have burned nearly 8.8 million acres so far this year, the most since 2015 and well above the 10-year average of 6 million acres.
The House last week approved a disaster relief package that includes $576.5 million for wildfire recovery efforts.