Hearings scheduled for fire-related bills

Two bills related to wildland fire will be evaluated in a Congressional hearing before the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Thursday, April 11 at 10:00 a.m.

The first one is the “Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act”, H.R. 818 (Tipton):

To address the bark beetle epidemic, drought, deteriorating forest health conditions, and high risk of wildfires on National Forest System land and land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management in the United States by expanding authorities established in the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 to provide emergency measures for high-risk areas identified by such States, to make permanent Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management authority to conduct good-neighbor cooperation with States to reduce wildfire risks, and for other purposes. 

This bill would give the Governor of a state the power to conduct “emergency hazardous fuels reduction projects” in areas on National Forests that the Governor has designated as a “high-risk area” as a result of bark beetle epidemic, drought, or “the future risk of insect infestations or disease outbreaks”. This could occur with or without the approval of the federal government. The bill would also shorten the environmental review process for these projects.

The second bill is the “Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act of 2013”, H.R. 1345 (Gosar):

To address the forest health, public safety, and wildlife habitat threat presented by the risk of wildfire, including catastrophic wildfire, on National Forest System lands and public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management by requiring the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to expedite forest management projects relating to hazardous fuels reduction, forest health, and economic development, and for other purposes. “Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act of 2013”

This bill uses wildfire prevention as an excuse to increase livestock grazing and timber harvest projects on federal land. Like the previous bill, it also shortens the environmental review process for these projects.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

6 thoughts on “Hearings scheduled for fire-related bills”

  1. Maybe I am looking at this the wrong way, but it looks this bill takes a lot of the politics out of management. I am a states rights kind of guy and while I recognize that the state I live in does not own the BLM and US FWS and the Forest service, the lands are surrounded by state and private lands. I have seen situations that needed to be mitigated on federal ground but could be because of some silly political or environmental concern. The federal lands are not parcels that are so far removed from the States that mismanagement or silly political decisions don’t have huge consequences for the state and private landowners when everything goes to hell. To me it is like a rancher that does not fix fence, soon it is every one of his neighbors problem.

  2. “This bill would give the Governor of a state the power to conduct emergency hazardous fuels reduction projects”

    There is apparently a limitless supply of kooky state government people who never quite grasp that the states do not make decisions on federal lands. Logging, thinning, and other projects is one thing. But where are they going to be when a rippin’ big fire tears through the state? Oh, then they want federal resources. Right.

    Not saying that fed processes are not messed up – they are. I think the best change Congress could make is to require that anyone suing the feds to challenge any land management action must first establish legal standing in the case. That would kill off most of the silly lawsuits. And, if a plaintiff suing the feds loses, THEY have to pay for it.

    1. I wouldnt call it kooky at all on the states part. Years of lack of management due to politics and kooky lawsuits have brought us to a place where there are more and more private land losses due to fires that escape from federal lands. Yes we “state” people understand the land belongs to the “people” but we also have a right to have some say in the management of that land for the people.

      Let me ask this: You neighbor neglects their property by letting the grass grow too tall around their wood pallet collection that rests right against the property line which is 30 feet from your home. You have done all you can on your property to do meaningful fuels reduction and defensible space. Your neighbor routinely has a burn barrel going during burning closures right against the tall flammible grass. You have continually reached out to said neighbor to voice your concerns and even offered to help them clean up the property to no avail. What’s your next move? In many localities you can work with government to get them to require them to clean up, thats a perfectly acceptable path them many would take. What makes the federal goverment different?

      And by the way, In Oregon we rarely ask for federal help on State fires due to building the capacity we need internally to fight our own fires and manage them effectively. This means we will take independant action as necessary to protect private lands when mismangement of land or fires occurs that puts private lands at risk. And we spend more time providing resources to help the feds fight their fires than our own, while still keeping 97% of our fires at 10 acres or less.

  3. Maybe the Sagebrush Rebellion strikes again


    Where was all this “coomon sense” in building the NEPA process in the first place??

    Sagebrush Rebellion or not……..

    Once the LMA’s got their little projects OK’d by Congress…what would one expect over 30-40 yeeeeeeaaaaaars of the NEPA process.an overnite decision process? Not on your life.

    If nothing else, let’s see what those Western Governors can assist in….

    IF things can get streamlined and that is a HEAVY IF……..through them, what would it hurt?

    It would only hurt LARGE EGOS that monitored the the NEPA and other Federal processes….somewhat like worrying about retardant drops on “sensitive areas.”

    Some of these are NEEDED as emergency processes and if the Western Governors are facing losses, homeowners facing losses (through their neglect or otherwise), insurance companies facing losses, etc etc etc etc etc

    Then what PRACTICAL purposes have these processes have served during emergency operations when SHTF?

    More reasons that that LMA’s HAVE to start understanding all risk all hazard operations as a fact of life and maybe they are not suited for those types of missions if they can not identify issues on the ground.

    It is time to stop blaming the Sagebrush Rebellion and the Western Governors…it is time for alll that “Interagency Hype and Cooperation” that has been purported, lectured, and bragged about alll these YEARS and start DOING some thing about it.

    If these new bills are introduced….it only proves one thing…..the old ideas do not work in the 2013 through 2100 AD!!!

    1. Leo sometimes your frequent comments are interesting. Other times I have trouble determining what the point is that you are making. In this comment, are you saying that you think it’s a good idea for governors to have the power to cut trees, brush, and grass and to do control burn projects on forest service land, even if the forest service does not approve? Some people would think that’s crazy talk.

  4. I’m all for shortening the NEPA process for all projects, but turning over control of Federal lands to governors is the wrong way to go. The sagebrush rebellion strikes again.


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