WASHINGTON – This week, Sen. Mike Lee introduced legislation that would protect communities near federal lands that are at risk of catastrophic wildfire destruction. The bill would expedite projects to reduce fuel loads on certain lands owned by the federal government through livestock grazing and timber management plans. It reduces regulatory burdens on these projects while still allowing for reasonable public review and environmental analysis.
“The lives and livelihoods of affected communities are at risk by poor management of our public lands,” said Lee, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “The bill will allow federal agencies to implement fuel reduction projects to reduce the danger of catastrophic fires in the future and address a key component that caused much of the wildfire destruction we have seen recently.”
The “Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act of 2012” was first introduced in the House by Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-1) and has 32 co-sponsors, including Utah Reps. Bishop and Matheson. The bill Lee introduced in the Senate is a companion bill to the House bill, with no significant differences, which facilitates the passing of the bills between the two chambers without need for extensive negotiation.
“I thank Senator Lee for joining me to push for this common sense solution that will prevent catastrophic fire conditions in our national forests,” said Rep. Paul Gosar. “With nearly 900 forest fires having raged across the country, especially in Arizona, Utah and other western states, the legislation we’ve proposed will be crucial tools in fighting devastating wildfires. By removing the red tape and expediting the federal review process on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands we can better manage our forests and create rural jobs. The gridlock between agencies must end.”
“The Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act empowers land managers to more dynamically manage our nation’s public lands,” said National Parks, Forests, and Public Land Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop this week. “Timber harvests and livestock grazing are effective tools that when used responsibly can promote forest health and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. The Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act ensures that hazardous fuel reduction and forest restoration activities are done in an efficient, effective, and environmentally responsible manner. I’m grateful that Sen. Lee has introduced the Senate companion and look forward to the House consideration of the bill (HR 5744) before the Subcommittee Friday* morning.”
So far, nearly 400,000 acres of Utah land have burned this year.