Western Senators Release Wildfire Prevention Legislation


U.S. Steve Daines (R-MT) joined with U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), in releasing a draft of the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017.


The draft legislation includes Daines’ Cottonwood fix and will enhance forest management to more effectively mitigate severity of catastrophic wildfires. The bill will also provide increased protections for wildlife habitat threatened by wildfires.


“We have had one of the most devastating fire seasons this year across the West and in Montana,” Daines stated . “We need forest management reform now to reduce the severity and intensity of wildfires and create more good-paying jobs.”


Specifically, the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017 will:


  • Statutorily reverse the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's Cottonwood decisions by codifying the position taken by the Obama administration that federal agencies are not required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at a programmatic level when new critical habitat is designated or a new species is listed;
  • Direct the Department of Interior (DOI) to create a categorical exclusion (CE) for certain sage-grouse and mule deer habitat vegetation projects that address areas affected by the encroachment of invasive pinyon and juniper trees;
  • Direct the Department of Agriculture to create a CE for immediate action in critical response situations due to disease and insect infestations, threats to watersheds, and other high-risk areas;
  • Call for streamlined environmental review for ecosystem restoration projects by requiring the U.S. Forest Service to consider only two alternatives during the planning process: an “action” alternative, and a “no action” alternative;
  • Establish or modify CEs for wildlife habitat improvement, forest thinning, and insect and disease infestation; and
  • Establish a five-year pilot arbitration process to allow alternative dispute resolution for forest activities that will result in binding decisions not subject to judicial review.


To view full text of the draft legislation, click HERE.


Background Information:


On September 27, 2017, the EPW committee held a hearing on “Forest Management to Mitigate Wildfires: Legislative Solutions.” The hearing examined three pieces of legislation: S. 605, the Litigation Relief for Forest Management Projects Act; S.1417, the Sage-Grouse and Mule Deer Habitat Conservation and Restoration Act of 201; and S.1731, the Forest Management Improvement Act of 2017.


On October 25, 2017, the EPW Committee is scheduled to hold a legislative hearing on the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017.

Source: Senator Steve Daines

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