Two wildfire bills pending in D.C.

A Senator and a Representative in Oregon are pushing two bills that have been introduced in Congress that would affect wildland fire and forest management. One emphasized logging while the other is about mitigating hazardous fuels near communities.

Last week U.S. Rep. Greg Walden introduced the Resilient Federal Forests Act,  which would:

  • Reduce environmental compliance restrictions on projects up to 10,000 acres to treat forest stands affected by insects and disease in order to reduce hazardous fuels and protect watersheds. The limit would expand to 30,000 acres for collaborative projects.
  • Expedite salvage logging after fires.
  • Require replanting 75 percent of burned areas within five years.
  • Increase logging on Oregon and California Railroad lands in Western Oregon.
  • Remove the prohibition on logging trees over 21 inches in diameter in Eastern Oregon.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley is working to pass his Wildfire-Resilient Communities Act that stalled in the Senate last year. One of the main provisions is to appropriate $1 billion to the U.S. Forest Service for ramping up projects that would reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, including expanding the  U.S. Forest Service’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. These projects would carry out hazardous fuels reduction activities on Forest Service lands in areas that are near at-risk communities, are high-value watersheds, or have very high wildfire potential. The goal is to create fire-adapted communities, restore and maintain resilient landscapes, and to achieve safe and effective fire response.

In another wildfire related issue, Senator Merkley said thanks to a $7 million appropriation from the federal government the Oregon National Guard trained 230 Guard members in March to fight fires and another 125 will be trained in July.

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. Google+

12 thoughts on “Two wildfire bills pending in D.C.”

  1. Unfortunately, Congress would never appropriate $1B dollars, esp for any western state, as long as this “just rake the forest floor” President is in office.

  2. “In another wildfire related issue, Senator Merkley said thanks a $7 million appropriation from the federal government the Oregon National Guard trained 230 Guard members in March to fight fires and another 125 will be trained in July.”

    I sincerely hope they are doing more with that money than just training ~450 guard members to fight fires — that’s about $15,500 per member for training.

    1. If training includes supporting capacity for prescribed fire, which it should (if not in OR then elsewhere), I’d be ok with this.

  3. And Representative Walden should also include a provision that we abolish all Forestry Schools and other Natural Resource training since he feels more qualified as a politician to make decisions about areas needing harvest, tree DBH importance and reforestation efforts.

    1. Umm…Dick. Just because a tree is > 21″ DBH, does not mean we are destroying the forest in removing it. Fact is there are 5-10x as many trees per acre as there were pre-settlement/pre-suppression. Science based, economically viable commercial forest restoration efforts are the bridge out of our current quandary. We simply cannot pay for all the treatments needed to perform forest restoration by removing just the sub-merch. Nor should we. The sub-merch we’ve been arguing about for decades, is now merchantable & pays for activities which will cost money on the rest of it.

      The science is firmly in my court. Educate yourself before you resort to the partisan hacking you have commenced.

      1. Well, I guess that during my 50+ years as a Professional Forester (most of which has been in Fire Management) don’t count as working in science …. or my experience as working as a Forest FMO in WUI areas …. or working side-by-side with wildfire researchers about protecting structures in the WUI …. or working as an Type 1 Ops Chief on fires in the WUI across the US… guess I’ve been playing ball in “the wrong court”? Maybe I’ll see things different after another 50 years, when County Commissioners stop approving “at risk” WUI developments and Insurance companies stop insuring them. Meanwhile, I still think that forest management decisions should be made by Land Management professionals instead of politicians, and that projects in the 10,000-30,000 acre range are significant and are worthy of a full-blown environmental review at the EA or EIS level.

        1. Well put Dick. Politicians including our Potus,should not be involved in Forest management decisions. Leave that up to the professionals like yourself.

        2. I’m an educated medical professional but do not understand what the initials mean. Please speak English so us non forest folks can understand. It’s like me talking ‘ medical talk ‘ to you.

  4. I’ve recently become the lead for our new Firewise community in Nevada County, CA and have been on a crash course to learn the basics of wildfire, forest management and adapted communities. Our You Bet Firewise Community is 100% in, and surrounded by, state / federal Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones. It’s characterized by 12,000+ acres about 42% of which is owned by BLM, Tahoe Nat’l Forest, Nevada Irrigation District and Sierra Pacific Logging as well as about 600 private parcels.

    Last week we launched our kick-off meeting to a 100+ standing room only group of neighbors. We’re on deck working hard on our properties, however most of these are 5-100 acres and thinning them is a daunting task. The #1 ask is “where can I get financial help?” The will is there; the ability to do the work and / or fund it is not.

    Since we’re in a race to get ready, any and all help that can be provided on a LOCAL level is much appreciated. Get rid of the bureaucracy, pass the Acts … and show us the love [eg $$$].

    1. Kristen,

      It doesn’t have to be this way. You live in some of the most productive country in the world. Unfortunately it also happens to be the most regulated forest industry in the world as well. Passage of the Forest Practices Act in 1973 had good intentions, but terrible results. It discouraged investment, & sound stewardship, resulting in a cascading withdrawal & consolidation of timber landowners in the state. With the regulation, you lost your markets, & your ability to manage the forest. You were literally surrounded by mills within spitting distance. Now there are just a few…& a few large landowners, including the largest non-tax paying landowner in the country. Now you have to pay people to take it. The industry has caught the drift long ago & rode the wave right out of the state.

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