As we know, the near-record fire season in the West has finally grabbed the attention of policymakers in Washington, DC leading to a flurry of activity and a real push to include fire-funding and forest management reforms in “must pass” legislation within the next 30 to 90 days. Unfortunately, too much of that discussion has focused solely on the need to fix the financing mechanism used to pay fire suppression costs. While we have media and policy attention, we need to stress to our friends in Congress the need to include forest management reforms in any fire funding fix they advance this year. This is why the WV Logger Council and similar organizations across the U.S. signed a letter in support of fire-funding reform, including forest management provisions.
October 23, 2017
The Honorable John Barrasso, Chairman
The Honorable Tom Carper, Ranking Member
Chairman & Ranking Member
Committee on Environment & Public Works
Washington, DC 20510
Chairman Barrasso and Ranking Member Carper:
As you know, our nation is experiencing another catastrophic wildfire season. Over 8.5 million acres have already burned this year and we may break the record that was set just two years ago. Some of the worst devastation has occurred on overstocked, unhealthy federal forests, where wildfires have affected millions of Americans living in nearby communities and polluted the air with toxic smoke. We need Congress to reform the federal forest management policies that are a key cause of the worsening wildfire seasons and deteriorating forest health, as well as addressing the broken and unsustainable fire funding model.
At a recent hearing before your Committee, you heard from a wide array of industry, conservation, and state government interests in support of a comprehensive approach to these significant – but solvable – problems.
We commend you for taking some of the best ideas from the bills discussed at your September 27th hearing and incorporating them into the staff draft under consideration at this weeks hearing. These provisions include meaningful policy and legal reforms to increase federal forest management and thinning activities.
The legislation will prevent unnecessary litigation against needed forest management projects, expediting NEPA analysis while preserving public input and involvement, and provide an array of new tools to expedite projects designed to meet a variety of forest management objectives. Reducing fuels, particularly in our Western forests, and creating a variety of habitat ages and types, are critical to the long term health of our public forests and rangelands.
Our organizations applaud your efforts to address both crises facing our National Forests and public lands. This legislation represents a significant step towards addressing the management questions. We urge you to rapidly conclude bipartisan negotiations so that this Congress can enact both fire funding and forest management reform legislation this year.
West Virginia Loggers Council et al