Democratic News

Mar 21 2018

Senator Cantwell Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Lawmakers to Enact the Largest Package of Forestry and Wildfire Legislation in 15 Years

Omnibus Deal Set to End Fire-Borrowing in the Forest Service and Provides Additional Funding for Restoration and Recreation Projects

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), announced that the omnibus (to be voted on later this week) will include legislation she sponsored to fix the chronic failures in wildfire funding that have plagued fire-prone communities across the West. 

“Pacific Northwest lawmakers have worked together to force Congress to finally address the persistent shortfalls in our nation’s wildland firefighting budgets,” said Senator Cantwell. “This puts an end to fire-borrowing and is a start to giving the Forest Service the predictable resources they need to reduce hazardous fuels. This funding boost will allow the Forest Service to prioritize work in areas closest to communities, in order to save lives and reduce the risk of property damage, while still protecting essential public lands and existing environmental laws.”

Below are several highlights of the package:

• Ends the Forest Service practice of fire-borrowing by establishing a contingency account for use in bad fire years and funds it with over $2 billion a year through 2027.

• Frees up over $100 million for fire prevention projects and recreation programs, and halts the continual migration of funding from non-fire programs to pay for the rising costs of firefighting.

• Enables utilities to partner with the Forest Service to better prevent trees from touching powerlines and starting wildfires.

• Expands the ability for States to partner with the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to accomplish fuels reduction and restoration projects.  

     *The Washington DNR entered a partnership with the Forest Service via this program in 2017.

• Prompts National Forests to update their old forest management plans to address the new conditions.

• Allows BLM to use the proceeds from land sales to purchase new land.

• Includes 2 years of funding for the county payments program, known as "Secure Rural Schools”.

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