Barrasso, Manchin Lead Effort to Reduce Wildfire Risk, Improve Forest Health

September 20, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), and ENR Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2023. This bipartisan legislation would reduce catastrophic wildfire risk and improve forest health.

“Right now, one-third of all National Forest lands are at severe risk of catastrophic wildfires. It is critical that we prevent these destructive wildfires from damaging communities in Wyoming and across the west. That is why I teamed up with Chairman Manchin on the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act. This bill increases and expedites fire mitigation projects and avoids critical staffing shortages in the wildland firefighting workforce,” said Ranking Member Barrasso.

“Our country has seen devastating wildfires that have affected countless communities and people across the nation. That is why I am proud to cosponsor the bipartisan Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2023, legislation that will help advance efforts to reduce wildfire risk, restore the health of our National Forests and public lands, and protect surrounding communities. I am also proud that this legislation will help to improve the experience for wildland firefighters that put their lives on the line to protect all of us,” said Chairman Manchin.

Decades of forest mismanagement has created landscapes comprised of unhealthy, overstocked stands susceptible to insect and disease outbreaks and unnaturally large, intense, and dangerous wildfires. According to data from the U.S. Forest Service, over 200 million acres across America are at high or very high risk to catastrophic fire. The majority of this at-risk acreage is located on Federal lands, with NFS and DOI lands respectively comprising approximately 63 million and 41 million acres.

Unhealthy forests have given rise to increasingly longer and more devastating wildfire seasons.

The average number of acres burned annually has essentially doubled since the 1990s. While Congress has provided the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior with billions of dollars in additional taxpayer funding for fire mitigation projects, these agencies have not made progress at the pace necessary to address the western wildfire crisis. Enacting the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2023 would help cut red tape, combat frivolous litigation, and increase transparency in the fight against wildfires.

A one-page summary of the bill is available here.

A section-by-section summary of the bill available here.

The bill text is available here.

“We applaud Chairman Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso for setting clear expectations for forest management on our Federal forests. For the last decade, Congress has increasingly provided the tools and resources for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to begin turning the tide on the fire and forest health crisis. Now it’s time to begin holding these agencies accountable for results. The Promoting Effective Forest Management Act ensures that Forest Service leaders will be held accountable for using the authorities and resources Congress has provided.” – Bill Imbergamo, executive director of the Federal Forest Resource Coalition

"Grassroots commend Ranking Member Barrasso and Chairman Manchin for continuing to address two very important issues for the federal wildland workforce in the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2023. Break-in-service limitations and housing policies are in need of common-sense reforms, and I would like to thank the leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for continuing these efforts in a bi-partisan manner. We further commend Ranking Member Barrasso and Chairman Manchin for consistently working towards holistic reforms for the federal wildland workforce." – Luke Mayfield, President of Grassroots Wildland Firefighters

“After years of ever-increasing risk of catastrophic wildfire, we thank Chairman Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso for their efforts to direct more strategic, expanded use of targeted tools to address the conditions that precipitate dangerous wildfires across rangeland and forested ecosystems. History tells us, and science confirms, that livestock grazing is an effective tool in managing annual grasses and residual biomass that make fires hotter and more destructive. Increasing the use of grazing as part of a larger strategy will make landscapes more resilient, reduce fire severity, and make conditions safer for land managers and fire fighters alike.” – Kaitlynn Glover, executive director of NCBA Natural Resources and the Public Lands Council

“The aging workforce is a threat to the future viability of America’s timber industry. Workforce development programs will be critical to addressing the projected workforce shortage. The training program in the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2023 will provide a pipeline for essential workers to receive professional training. Additionally, the US timber industry is capital intensive. Low interest loans and loan guarantees will assist in acquisition and investment in modern mechanized equipment. The American Loggers Council appreciates the congressional recognition of loggers and their role as the first link in the forest products supply chain, without which there will be no forest products industry, forest-based products that society depends on will not be available, and the health of America’s forests will decline." – Scott Dane, executive director of the American Loggers Council

“Sportsmen and sportswomen see the conditions in our forests as they utilize public lands and understand the need to assess the benefits of nature-based climate solutions such as restoring headwaters and wetlands, to the long-term mitigation of drought and wildfire impacts across the West. We appreciate the thoughtful work of Senators Manchin and Barrasso in developing the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act and look forward to working with them to refine the proposal as it moves through Congress.” – Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

“The Mule Deer Foundation commends Ranking Member Barrasso and Chairman Manchin for their efforts to find mutually agreeable and bipartisan solutions to the dire forest health and wildlife habitat issues currently facing our nation. The Mule Deer Foundation is deeply appreciative of the inclusion of provisions in the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2023 that will emphasize wildlife habitat management as well as provisions that would require the use of existing authorities to implement good restoration work in a timely and efficient manner. The MDF looks forward to working with the Committee on bipartisan solutions that will enhance the utilization of the Sage Grouse/Mule Deer Categorical Exclusion as the bill works its way through the legislative process.” – Joel Pedersen, president and CEO of the Mule Deer Foundation

“We applaud Senator John Barrasso and Senator Joe Manchin for their leadership and bipartisan work to give public lands managers the tools and clear direction they need to address our nation’s growing forest health and wildfire crisis. This legislation accelerates the pace and scale of science-based management to address the serious threats to our national forests, including climate change and catastrophic wildfires, while increasing accountability and transparency to ensure this important work is being done. This comprehensive solution also gives local governments a stronger voice on federal forest management and helps put more boots on the ground by supporting workforce development in both the private sector and the U.S. Forest Service. We encourage Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress to come together to pass this legislation for healthier and more resilient forests.” – Travis Joseph, president & CEO of American Forest Resource Council

“Our national forests are in desperate need of active management to increase resilience and reduce the potential of catastrophic wildfire. Active management supports job creation while also improving wildlife habitat and protecting our local communities. The Boone and Crockett Club thanks Senator Barrasso and Senator Manchin for their leadership on the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act that supports the U.S. Forest Service’s efforts to improve our national forests as outlined in their Confronting the Wildfire Crisis strategy issued at the beginning of last year.” – Tony Schoonen, chief executive officer of Boone and Crockett Club

“This bipartisan legislation reinforces the decades of science illustrating that we must be more proactive implementing management actions to begin addressing the wildfire crisis impacting our public lands. Each year we are reminded how fuels accumulations and unhealthy forests push wildfires to threaten communities and ecosystems alike, and that wildfires don’t follow land designations. We applaud the efforts in this legislation to begin addressing the wildfire crisis through effective forest management and setting clear targets.” – Ben Wudtke, executive director of Intermountain Forest Association

“The Wyoming Stock Growers Association is genuinely excited by the introduction of the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2023. We congratulate Senators Barrasso and Manchin for responding comprehensively to the legal and bureaucratic challenges that have hindered forest management for far too long. WSGA appreciated the recognition of the critical role of livestock grazing in fuels reduction together with expedited reviews of vacant allotments. The provisions incentivizing employees to remain in a location, building community relationships and enhancing their understanding of the local resources addresses a personal goal that I have advocated for with Forest Service leadership for many years.” – Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association

“In the wake of the devastating wildfires ravaging our forests, our air, our water, and our communities, forest managers are handcuffed by a clunky permitting process that prevents them from tackling the crisis. The Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2023 would be a significant help by requiring the Forest Service to use existing streamlining tools, identify and address additional obstacles, and take accountability for hitting forest management targets.” – Brian Yablonski, CEO of Property and Environment Research Center (PERC)

“Logging contractors are on the front lines of sustainable forest management and forest restoration in the United States. Mechanization and the adoption of new technologies have made logging jobs safer and better paying in recent years. However, the industry struggles to attract a modern workforce with new skills and greater access to professional training. The Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2023 is a great step towards helping the industry build the workforce it needs to sustainably manage our forests for the future.” – Jim Hourdequin, CEO of the Lyme Timber Company

We believe it is time for a new way forward in Western forest management, one characterized by large landscape-scale, integrated, and multidisciplinary enhancement projects guided by multi-stakeholder collaboration. The targeted actions included in the Promoting Effective Forest Management Act will better allow the stakeholders involved in our project to achieve success. The Family Farm Alliance strongly supports this legislation, and we thank Senator Barrasso and Senator Manchin for their important, bipartisan leadership in this matter." – Pat O’Toole, President, Family Farm Alliance