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house Bill H.R. 2936

Should Federal Forests be Actively Managed to Prevent Wildfires and Disease?

Argument in favor

Wildfires and disease pose a significant threat to national forests, in part because they’re overgrown. Active management using tools already available to the Forest Service and BLM would improve the health resilience of our nation’s forests.

Rachel's Opinion
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09/01/2017
Effective forestry management keeps our communities safer, our economy more robust, and our natural landscapes healthier.
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Eddie's Opinion
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09/02/2017
With unprecedented wildfire after wildfire in recent decades, it has become apparent that human-protected forest, with too-close trees and horrendous undergrowth result in catastrophic fires. Either wise management including brush removal and tree thinning is called for, or the Native American strategy of complete burning every few years. Blindly following a "Protect the Trees" strategy will always result in monumental fires burning millions of acres and destroying old-growth trees that should normally survive a fire.
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···
09/01/2017
They're not already doing this? Any good land owner takes preventive measures to control the land and improve it. The forests can still be natural but controlled to prevent disease and disaster. Just how hunters help control a deer herd from disease and over population.
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Argument opposed

This bill would expose national forests to reckless logging practices and endanger treasured public lands. It would shortcut environmental reviews and public involvement that let communities weigh in on the process in some cases.

TracyEckels's Opinion
···
09/01/2017
This is just ridiculous. Try to see the forest for the trees here and call it what it is. This will open up the great national forests and lands to the logging industry and other companies, so they can reap their profits from our national parks, and ruin them for generations to come! I emphatically Vote No!
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KansasTamale's Opinion
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09/01/2017
While this bill sounds like a way to control forest fires it has lots of problems, mainly due to the fact that It would expose national forests to reckless logging by non- governmental companies which do not care about how destructive they are. It would also endanger our treasured public lands. Environmental reviews and public involvement would be decreased to the extent that would keep communities from weighing in on the process.
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Eric's Opinion
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09/01/2017
Nature has got along just fine without us, I fear the word managing would also include logging. In years past they used to go in and clean up the forest and they found that it did more harm than good because forest are supposed to burn
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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 November 1st, 2017
    Roll Call Vote 232 Yea / 188 Nay
      house Committees
      Committee on Agriculture
      Committee on Education and Labor
      Committee on Natural Resources
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
      Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management
    IntroducedJune 20th, 2017

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What is House Bill H.R. 2936?

This bill — known as the Resilient Federal Forests Act — would seek to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and improve the health of federal forests by actively managing federal forests and expediting related environmental reviews. It would also provide for streamlined reforestation after wildfires, allow the president to make disaster declarations for major wildfires, and reform litigation practices involving forest management.

The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would be required to analyze only two alternatives when assessing a forest management project proposed by a collaborative group: an “action alternative” (ie the proposal), and a “no action” alternative that considers potential future impacts from not undertaking the project. Among those potential future impacts would be insect & disease threats, catastrophic wildfire and its impact on municipal watersheds, wildlife habitat, and other socio-economic factors.

Categorical exclusions — a category of actions which don’t have a significant effect on the environment and thus don’t require an environmental assessment — could be authorized to counteract insect & disease threats, reduce wildfire hazards, increase water yield, improve or enhance critical habitat, produce timber, or any combination of these purposes. Acreage sizes for categorical exclusions would be limited to 10,000 acres, or 30,000 acres if it’s a collaborative project.

Following a large-scale wildfire, an environmental assessment for reforestation activities would be required within two months, and at least 75 percent of the burned area would have to be reforested. Public input would be limited to 30 days for public scoping, 15 days for filing an objection, and 15 days for an agency to respond to an objection.

The president would be allowed to declare major wildfires a natural disaster under the Stafford Act (which is also used for hurricanes), which would make emergency funding available for wildfire suppression and prevents “fire-borrowing” by the Forest Service from non-fire suppression forest management accounts.

Time limits would be established on preliminary injunctions for forest management litigation, and courts would be required to weigh the risks of not taking action. No awards for attorney’s fees or expenses could be paid to any plaintiff challenging a forest management activity. A pilot program utilizing arbitration for resolving legal challenges to projects carried out under this legislation would be established.

Other provisions of this bill include:

  • Indian tribes would be allowed to request to manage adjacent federal lands with streamlined authorities currently available to them on Indian land. They would be required to offer timber obtained using the new authorities for sale through competitive bid.

  • The original 500 million board feet of timber minimum volume requirement on Oregon & California Railroad Revested Lands (O&C Lands) managed by BLM is affirmed, and BLM is required to annually offer for sale the greater of 500 mmbf or the sustained yield.

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act would be amended to allow 16 and 17 year olds to participate in a family-run mechanized logging operation.

Impact

Federal forests and the communities in and near them; the Forest Service and the BLM.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 2936

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) introduced this bill to implement active forest management techniques to prevent wildfires and expedite reforestation after wildfires:

“For far too long, our nation’s forests have been fighting a battle for survival. The conflict is not with logging but with the effects of reactive versus proactive management which has resulted in costly confrontations with wildfire, disease, and insects. In 2015, a record 10.1 million acres burned due to wildfires. This bill would utilize tools already available to the U.S. Forest Service and provide protection to America’s forests by reducing the risks of wildfires through proper management techniques.”

The Wilderness Society expressed its strong opposition to this bill’s predecessor from the last Congress on the grounds that it would expose national forests to “reckless logging practices” and would “short-cut vital environmental reviews and public involvement.” Alan Rowsome, The Wilderness Society’s senior director of government relations in Washington, DC said:

“This divisive bill runs roughshod over time-tested conservation laws put in place decades ago to protect America’s national forests and drinking water. It also silences the public from raising concerns about logging on our treasured public lands, removing checks or balances that allow local communities to be heard. This measure erodes important conservation laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act by creating short cuts that would rush the environmental review and short change the public comment period in some instances.”

This legislation passed the House Natural Resource Committee on a 23-12 vote and has the support of 10 cosponsors in the House, including eight Republicans and two Democrats.

The Trump administration released a statement expressing mixed support for this bill. It cited appreciation for its provisions allowing proactive forest management and post-fire reforestation efforts, and expressed concern about changes to the Stafford Act not doing enough to end the practice of "fire borrowing".


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr / Public Domain)

AKA

Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017

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.

    Effective forestry management keeps our communities safer, our economy more robust, and our natural landscapes healthier.
    Like (30)
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    This is just ridiculous. Try to see the forest for the trees here and call it what it is. This will open up the great national forests and lands to the logging industry and other companies, so they can reap their profits from our national parks, and ruin them for generations to come! I emphatically Vote No!
    Like (200)
    Follow
    Share
    While this bill sounds like a way to control forest fires it has lots of problems, mainly due to the fact that It would expose national forests to reckless logging by non- governmental companies which do not care about how destructive they are. It would also endanger our treasured public lands. Environmental reviews and public involvement would be decreased to the extent that would keep communities from weighing in on the process.
    Like (119)
    Follow
    Share
    Nature has got along just fine without us, I fear the word managing would also include logging. In years past they used to go in and clean up the forest and they found that it did more harm than good because forest are supposed to burn
    Like (63)
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    Share
    Naturally occurring events should be addressed differently than arson or neglect. I am not a scientist and feel that issues like this should be answered by experts/scientists who prioritize the health of our planet. This should not be determined by public opinion. A healthy planet is needed for a healthy society.
    Like (48)
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    If it were done under the guidance of actual science by those without a financial stake in cutting down as much as they can, sure. However, this is not that legislation.
    Like (40)
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    I can't stand this administration 😡😡😡😡
    Like (35)
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    This needs to happen -- but not like this. No blank checks for the logging industry without SIGNIFICANT environmental oversiight.
    Like (32)
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    No. What part of 'wild' don't you understand? The exposure to over-management and destruction is too great, and to this anti-environmentalist administration too tempting.
    Like (26)
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    Stop trying to destroy our lands.
    Like (26)
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    We must take responsibility for our own land. We are its stewards, not its absentee landlords-- but not in this bill. It is reckless in writing, and dangerous in how it opens arias to logging.
    Like (18)
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    Fire is a vital part of forest health and required for many species of trees to reproduce. We should only take action to reduce the impact of fires on humans. Fire is a natural part of our world and shouldn't be prevented. I also fear that this would open up our national parks to the logging industry "in the name of safety."
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    The real reason behind this is "expediting related environmental reviews." This Administration doesn't care about the environment or anything that gets in the way of campaign contributors making money. I'll bet they'd allow oil fracking on Mt Rushmore if it would give Koch Brothers greater wealth.
    Like (15)
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    With unprecedented wildfire after wildfire in recent decades, it has become apparent that human-protected forest, with too-close trees and horrendous undergrowth result in catastrophic fires. Either wise management including brush removal and tree thinning is called for, or the Native American strategy of complete burning every few years. Blindly following a "Protect the Trees" strategy will always result in monumental fires burning millions of acres and destroying old-growth trees that should normally survive a fire.
    Like (13)
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    Share
    Let Mother Nature do her job, not people who would end up destroying forests for profit.
    Like (11)
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    Federal land is already managed by the Forest Service. This bill is a Trojan horse expanding Presidential authority and commercial opportunism.
    Like (11)
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    Any legislation that curtails environmental review and potentially opens up natural lands to reckless logging needs to be stopped.
    Like (10)
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    Let me quote from the explanation of the reasons to vote nay: "This bill would expose national forests to reckless logging practices and endanger treasured public lands. It would shortcut environmental reviews and public involvement that let communities weigh in on the process in some cases." One more attempt by Republicans to turn public land over to private interests to make a buck. Oppose.
    Like (10)
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    They're not already doing this? Any good land owner takes preventive measures to control the land and improve it. The forests can still be natural but controlled to prevent disease and disaster. Just how hunters help control a deer herd from disease and over population.
    Like (9)
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    At first glance this appears to come from a desire to protect our natural heritage, but looking closer there are some things that are suspect. Mostly the fact that this bill is limiting environmental review or local opinion input. This feels a lot like private companies trying to make a grab to exploit resources under the guise of "protecting" them.
    Like (7)
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