Energy

Environmentalists Try To Block Congress From Implementing New Ways To Fight Forest Fires

A bipartisan movement is building in Congress to reform the forest management practices of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), despite environmentalists’ charge that the moves give too much power to the logging industry, The Washington Post reports.

The USFS has spent over $2 billion so far on wildfire suppression in 2017’s record setting fire season. The Trump administration is urging Congress to reform the USFS’s forest management funding dynamics and policies as the agency spends over half its budget fighting fires, according to a press release last week.

Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon introduced a bill Tuesday to restructure the funding for fighting fires. Currently, the USFS draws money from funds allocated to forest management when firefighting funds run out, WaPo reports.

“We end up having to hoard all of the money that is intended for fire prevention, because we’re afraid we’re going to need it to actually fight fires,” Perdue said. “It means we can’t do the prescribed burning, harvesting, or insect control to prevent leaving a fuel load in the forest for future fires to feed on.”

GOP Rep. Rob Bishop supports Wyden’s bill, but Bishop says the bill won’t solve the root issue. The GOP representative is pushing a bill by his Republican colleague Bruce Westerman of Arkansas, who has introduced a bipartisan bill that would allow the USFS to thin trees on areas 10,000 acres or less without certain environmental reviews taking place first, WaPo reports.

“If all we’re doing is throwing more money at wildfire suppression, that’s a futile program because you don’t solve the basic problem, which is forest management,” Bishop said according to WaPo.

So far, environmentalists have derailed USFS attempts for more aggressive management practices through lawsuits. Legislation would prevent environmentalists from using the courts this way, however, the groups are pushing back.

“[Westerman’s] bill, I would say, just categorically tries to gut every part of the democratic process of public-lands management,” Center for Biological Diversity government affairs director Brett Hartl told WaPo.

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