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Bill Protects Communities from Deadly Wildfires, Improves Forest Health, Supports Rural Jobs

WASHINGTON – Amid the catastrophic wildfires burning in the western United States, U.S. Senators for Idaho Jim Risch and Mike Crapo have signed on in support of major, bipartisan forest management reform legislation. The Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act of 2020, which was introduced last month by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), increases active management of federal forests, cuts red tape, reduces frivolous litigation and gives the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) further tools to protect communities from deadly wildfires.  

“Years of insufficient forest management have turned the West into a tinderbox, evidenced by this year’s devastating wildfires. While we cannot control each lightning strike or wind change, we can change the ways we manage our forests to prevent the 2020 fire season from becoming the new normal,” said Risch. “This legislation offers urgently needed fixes to our forest management practices to improve the long-term health and viability of Idaho’s forests and protect the communities that call our forestland home.”

“This forestry package contains a number of provisions to enhance wildfire prevention and salvage efforts, and is especially timely as states currently battle massive wildfires in the West,” said Crapo. “These tools will help accelerate fire reduction and post-fire restoration projects. Moreover, the ‘new information’ threshold for the Cottonwood decision will prevent further red tape to protect forest management projects from unnecessary and overly burdensome litigation. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this legislation signed into law.”

Among its provisions, the Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act of 2020 will:

  • Require the Forest Service to conduct three landscape-level fire reduction projects in the West proposed by a governor.
  • Establish a prescribed fire center in the West.
  • Provide relief from the  Cottonwood decision by establishing a threshold for what qualifies as ‘new information’ triggering consultation.
  • Establish a new Categorical Exclusion to accelerate management near roads, trails, and transmission lines.
  • Establish a grant program to facilitate the removal of biomass from National Forest areas.
  • Create a competitive grant program for groups assisting in workforce development in the forestry sector.

The legislation is supported by the Idaho Forest Group, the National Association of Counties, the National Association of Conservation Districts, the Federal Forest Resource Coalition, the American Forest Resource Council, National Wild Turkey Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

To read the bill text, click here.

For wildfire information and resources, including fire maps, air quality information and more, visit Senator Risch’s website.

To read Senator Risch’s recent editorial on protecting Idaho’s forests and communities, visit the Coeur d’Alene Press website.

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