Barrasso Bill Supports Local Protection of Wyoming’s Old Growth Forests

March 13, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, introduced a bill to ensure state and local land managers play an active role in protecting America’s old growth forests. Senator Barrasso introduced this legislation along with Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Steve Daines (R-MT), and Jim Risch (R-ID).

This legislation would block a misguided U.S. Forest Service policy that obstructs local and state forestry initiatives without considering the unique conditions of such forests across Wyoming and the country.  

The U.S. Forest Service’s proposed Old Growth Plan Amendment was drafted without appropriate state or local input. This amendment attempts to force a unilateral approach to managing old growth forests without carefully considering unique local factors in places like Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest. This approach fails to address the major threats to our nation’s old growth forests, including wildfires.

“Unelected, unaccountable, heavy handed Washington bureaucrats should not impose a ‘one-size-fits-all’ regulatory scheme on Wyoming’s old growth forests,” said Senator Barrasso. “The people who live and work on the land are the best stewards of the land. This misguided proposal from the Biden administration ignores local input and will make it harder for Wyoming to keep our forests healthy. Our bill will ensure local land managers play an active role in wildfire mitigation. It will also ensure local managers retain the tools needed to combat disease and insects that threaten the health of America’s old growth forests.”

“Wyoming is home to some of America’s most iconic landscapes and brightest conservationists, yet none of our landowners or stakeholders were consulted before the Biden administration implemented new management strategies for Wyoming’s old-growth forests,” said Senator Lummis. “The people of Wyoming, not unelected D.C. bureaucrats, know better than anyone how to manage our lands, which is why I am partnering with Senator Barrasso to block the Biden administration’s one-size-fits-all approach to land management.”

“As wildfires are getting more deadly and more dangerous, the last thing our old-growth forests need is a one-sized-fits-all approach from DC that blocks the very management that would protect them from fire and keep them healthy. Land management decisions must be tailored to specific locations and involve local input and guidance. Management decisions on Montana forests should be left up to Montanans,” said Senator Daines. 

“Decades of federal mismanagement led to catastrophic wildfires across Idaho and the West. The Biden administration’s latest effort ignores the essential input of local partners and drastically restricts responsible timber harvest, prescribed burns, and other proven fire mitigation strategies. With Senator Barrasso, our bill will block this irresponsible guidance to preserve America’s forests and maintain local collaboration,” said Senator Risch.

This legislation is endorsed by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon:

“Wyoming is home to 9.2 million acres of National Forests; they are an integral part of our landscape, economy, and culture. The old-growth amendment is a misguided, top-down, one-size-fits-all forest proposal. Old growth should be addressed at a forest level for each unit, relying on local knowledge and expertise to ensure that forest management can better address the real threats of fire, insects, and disease,” Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said.

Read the text of the bill here.

Background Information:

  • In April 2022, the Biden Administration directed the U.S. Forest Service to define, identify, and assess the risks to “old-growth and mature” forests absent a Congressional mandate or existing authority to do so.
  • In December 2023, the U.S. Forest Service released a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement that would amend all 128 forest plans in less than one year, in direct conflict with its own processes that require tailored approaches at the forest level.