Lawmaker proposes changes to management of federal lands
Paul Gosar, a U.S. Representative from Arizona, has proposed major changes in the way public land is managed near wildland-urban interface areas. Draft legislation named “Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act of 2012” would expedite the review and approval process for thinning and grazing projects near communities that are at risk from wildfires, “so that our forests can be maintained and rural jobs can be created”. The new law, a response to the Wallow and Rodeo-Chediski fires in Arizona, would affect the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, enabling them to use emergency provisions of existing regulations to expedite grazing and forest thinning projects.
One of the provisions of the legislation requires that if a project requires an Environmental Impact Statement, it would have to be prepared within 30 days. The time needed to write and approve an EIS is now measured in years, not days, so this provision would be an astounding change.
Here is an excerpt from the Verde Independent:
Upon receipt of a “public petition” for designation of an “at-risk forest” or “threatened and endangered species habitat,” the bill would require the secretary of the agency affected to make a decision within 60 days.
If the project is authorized, the public would have 30 days to respond to the decision after notice is published in the Federal Register. And within 60 days of that same notice a final notice of the project would have to be published.
If the project included logging or grazing, an environmental impact statement would need to be prepared within 30 days. The EIS would be good for 10 years for grazing and 20 years for logging.
Alaska makes it easier to rent equipment for wildfires
The State of Alaska Division of Forestry has streamlined the process for the owners of equipment to list it as being available to be used on wildfires. A new internet-based system replaces the previous 22-page paper form. Fire managers will be able to pull up a map of Alaska and instantly see what equipment is available near fires.
Military air tanker crews train in North Carolina
The pilots and crews of military C-130 aircraft in the North Carolina Air National Guard will train this week to be ready to use them as air tankers on wildfires. The planes use Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) which can be slipped into the cargo hold enabling them to drop 3,000 gallons of fire retardant on fires. There are four bases, each with two MAFFS units, that can be activated if all federally-contracted air tankers are committed on fires. The other three bases have already held their annual training in the states of California, Wyoming, and Colorado.
Thanks go out to Dick