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house Bill H.R. 2647

Does the Dept. of the Interior Need More Flexibility to Manage Wildfire Threats?

Argument in favor

Wildfires are a major economic and environmental threat to national forests. Giving forest management agencies more flexibility while getting help from community partners and businesses can only improve the status quo.

EricRevell's Opinion
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07/09/2015
Many of the most destructive wildfires in the Western U.S. would be easier to contain if there was more active management of forests.
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Andrew's Opinion
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02/25/2016
As a wildland firefighter I have seen first hand many of the dangers of a wildfire and of working to suppress a wildfire. In the winter many fire fighters are laid off until it's time for a new set of fires to be fought. Meanwhile the fires across the country are getting larger and more complex due to an excess amount of unburned fuels. If the Bureau of Land Management and Dept. of the interior was allowed to mange the forests rather than just save them from destruction property damage, risk of injury and death, and high costs of suppression efforts could potentially be minimized or even avoided while still leaving room for the naturally occurring fire to positively impact the environment.
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William's Opinion
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07/09/2015
I say yes because our forests are important for wildlife and also oxygen, they should be protected also for the sake of making paper and lumber. I do though think we should use hemp for paper as a trial to see how it works out. That's my story and I'm sticking to it, over and out.
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Argument opposed

Trying to protect national forests from wildfires is a worthwhile goal, but it requires additional funding — which this bill doesn’t provide. It also makes it harder to bring a legal challenge delaying forest management projects from going forward.

David's Opinion
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07/09/2015
The current policy of letting forest grow, respecting that fire is a natural event, and working to contain fires within wilderness is the best way to manage forests. If Congress wants to improve recovery time, appropriate more money for that purpose.
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Jerod's Opinion
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03/14/2016
Maybe they should stop starting the fires and start managing the land like it's supposed to do.
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Rita 's Opinion
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03/13/2016
Part of the problem is the government. California..protect the dormouse, so no one is allowed to have the fire trench. At times you create note problems than you solve.
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What is House Bill H.R. 2647?

In hopes of reducing the threat of wildfires, this bill would change the way federal forests are managed, and aims to improve the overall health and biodiversity of the forests. 

This bill hopes to streamline the process for maintaining forests before catastrophic fires, and restoring them afterwards. For example, the bill doesn't create any new mapping, planning, rule-making, or reporting requirements for forest management agencies.

To speed things up, categorical exclusions (exemptions from environmental impact statements or assessments) would be available to the Forest Service for activities that:

  • Reduce the amount of hazardous fuel (like dry brush) available for fires;

  • Protect a municipal water source;

  • Address insect or disease infestations;

  • Protect critical habitat from natural catastrophes;

  • Increase the water yield.

Categorical exclusions would be limited to 5,000 acres. However, they could cover up to 15,000 acres if developed collaboratively, proposed by a resource advisory committee, or are covered by a community wildfire protection plan.

After a catastrophic event, the Forest Service would be able to quickly remove dead trees. This, in turn, would pay for reforestation and rehabilitation, which includes the planting of trees, surveying natural regeneration, clearing vegetation around seedling, and other activities.

This legislation allows states that wish to establish “revolving funds” accounts to manage their national forests to do so, as states like Montana, New Mexico, and Oregon had experienced difficulty doing so previously.

To bolster cooperation between various groups, environmental groups, timber companies, local stakeholders, and wildlife groups — among others — would participate in the planning and implementation of collaborative projects.

Existing environmental reviews would be maintained, though their requirements for project planning times and the costs of implementing forest management projects would be reduced.

Legal challenges against collaborative forest management projects would require a bond in order to proceed, which prevents frivolous challenges from indefinitely delaying projects and increasing costs.

When deciding on collaborative forest management activities, the Secretary of the Interior (DOI) could only consider two alternatives — the proposed activity or doing nothing. When assessing the option of doing nothing, considerations would include forest health, habitat diversity, the potential for wildfire, insect and disease infestation, and impacts on community water systems.


Impact

Residents of areas affected by wildfires and visitors to the area, groups participating in forest management projects, the Dept. of the Interior, and the Secretary of the Interior.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 2647

$10.00 Million
The CBO estimates that this bill would cost $10 million over the 2016-2020 period — or about $2 million per year.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) — the sponsor of this legislation — called his legislation “simple” and added that:

“It protects our national forests through proper management practices. It creates healthier forests, cleaner water, cleaner air, and protects the lives and property of Americans living in or near our national forests.”

The Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) said this legislation would “expedite forest management activities in the National Forest System and Bureau of Land Management to promote healthy, resilient forests and prevent wildfires.”

Expressing opposition to this bill, the Wilderness Society blasted “short cuts that would rush the environmental review and short change the public comment process.” It also strongly condemned the creation of exemptions for logging and road building in certain parts of national forests.

This bill was approved by the House Agriculture Committee via voice vote, and by the House Natural Resources Committee in a 22 to 15 vote.


Of Note: In recent years, wildfires have been significant if uneven in the amount of acreage burned. The 2014 wildfire season saw 3.6 million acres burn, the smallest total since 2010, but the 2012 wildfire season saw 9.3 million acres burn — the third highest total since 1960. About $3.4 billion has been allocated for wildfire management in fiscal year 2015.

Approximately one-quarter of the 193 million acre National Forest System is considered to be at risk of wildfires.

Media:

Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user Cococino National Forest)

AKA

Emergency Wildfire and Forest Management Act of 2016

Official Title

To expedite under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and improve forest management activities on National Forest System lands, on public lands under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management, and on tribal lands to return resilience to overgrown, fire-prone forested lands, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
  • The house Passed July 9th, 2015
    Roll Call Vote 262 Yea / 167 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Agriculture
      National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands
      Indigenous Peoples of the United States
      Committee on Natural Resources
    IntroducedJune 4th, 2015

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    Many of the most destructive wildfires in the Western U.S. would be easier to contain if there was more active management of forests.
    Like (10)
    Follow
    Share
    I say yes because our forests are important for wildlife and also oxygen, they should be protected also for the sake of making paper and lumber. I do though think we should use hemp for paper as a trial to see how it works out. That's my story and I'm sticking to it, over and out.
    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
    The current policy of letting forest grow, respecting that fire is a natural event, and working to contain fires within wilderness is the best way to manage forests. If Congress wants to improve recovery time, appropriate more money for that purpose.
    Like (2)
    Follow
    Share
    As a wildland firefighter I have seen first hand many of the dangers of a wildfire and of working to suppress a wildfire. In the winter many fire fighters are laid off until it's time for a new set of fires to be fought. Meanwhile the fires across the country are getting larger and more complex due to an excess amount of unburned fuels. If the Bureau of Land Management and Dept. of the interior was allowed to mange the forests rather than just save them from destruction property damage, risk of injury and death, and high costs of suppression efforts could potentially be minimized or even avoided while still leaving room for the naturally occurring fire to positively impact the environment.
    Like (2)
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    Share
    Maybe they should stop starting the fires and start managing the land like it's supposed to do.
    Like (1)
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    Wildfires are a necessary and vital part of the health of any forest. Human interference in the form of fire prevention has been detrimental to the important burn cycle of the forests.
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    If we don't fund protection for the forests, where are we going to live & what air will we breathe?
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    Clinton treehuggers banned logging and even logging roads in millions of new acres of forestland and the result was an inability to reach the worst outbreak of forest fires in a generation. Good thinking, Einstein.
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    I live in Alaska there were 321 wildfires I'm sure other organizations would love to help I have lived in other places also I believe there's a need for that power to distribute any sort of help they can muster up
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    What can I say? My Representative always votes against anything considered common sense. A political hack who follows the bosses dictates.
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    Most definitely. Right now they are really hamstrung by lobbiest led activism
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    More funding won't be used for its intended purpose, like everything under obama money will be wasted
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    Fires are natural. They are supposed to happen. Unfor
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    More funding!
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    The main reason why wildfires are such a problem is mismanagement of the forest. The best option is to manage the forests in a way to prevent wildfires in the first place. Forests are currently over grown and prone to hot fires.
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    We have to protect our forests and environment on the whole. This bill can help further those measures.
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    Give the forests back to the States. But until you do, take measures to protect them without spending more money. We are 18 TRILLION in debt...
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    too many Government regulations in force now that are not enforced. Enough!
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    Fires are necessary for most conifers to drop their seeds also fires help clear brush which fuels even larger fires if we allow forests to burn in will actually make them safer. And instead of spending so much money on fighting them we should spend money on replacing people's homes.
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    Don't need the Bears to get burned down!
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