Democratic News

Today, Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Pete Domenici (R-NM), chair and ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Wayne Allard (R-CO), chair and ranking member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, introduced bipartisan legislation to deal with serious forest health and wildfire challenges facing our National Forests.

A century of over-aggressive fire suppression and various land uses have significantly impaired many forest landscapes across America.  These conditions have added to the extraordinary fires and insect-caused tree loss on millions of acres of public and private lands.  To tackle these problems, it is critical to begin restoring our forests on a larger -- or landscape -- scale.
 
The Forest Landscape Restoration Act, co-authored by Bingaman, Domenici and Feinstein, puts in place a strategy to select and fund collaborative projects that restore forests at a landscape-scale.  Bill cosponsors include Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Larry Craig (R-ID), Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Mike Crapo (R-ID).
 
BingamanThis bill offers a unique approach to conducting comprehensive ecosystem restoration at a landscape scale.  We’re now spending billions of dollars a year trying to suppress wildland fires, and this bill will help us get a better handle on controlling those costs.  It also will help to make the restoration economy a reality by encouraging the use of restoration byproducts. Healthier forest ecosystems and communities will result.”
 
Domenici:   “Every year, we see millions of acres of land destroyed by forest fires.  These fires far outpace our ability to treat land. Too often they threaten homes and communities, and ultimately result in millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants added to our atmosphere.  This bill is another step in our efforts to increase treatments to federal lands in order to decrease the intensity of wildfires.  I look forward to working together with my fellow co-sponsors to get this bill adopted.”
 
Feinstein:  “Last year’s wildfires demonstrated the critical need for hazardous fuels reduction.  And the problem is not going away -– given widespread drought in the West and the impacts of global warming.  This new pilot program would establish private-public partnerships for hazardous fuels reduction projects for areas of 50,000 acres or more. It would leverage public and private sources of funding, and ensure that badly-needed funds are used most effectively for these larger-scale projects.”
  
Allard:  “Each summer wildfire threatens the American West and we are sent a catastrophic reminder of the need to more actively manage our forests.  Over the last five years, we have seen this happen in Colorado, Arizona, Alaska, Montana, Idaho and twice in California.  Each year more and more acres burn, more people are forced out of their homes, more business are lost, and more lives are threatened by the tenacious destruction wrought by mother nature.  The need for action is clear and I am hopeful that the Forest Landscape Restoration Act will be a new and useful tool to address this urgent need.”
 
The purpose the act is to support collaborative, science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes by:
 
ü      Encouraging ecological, economic, and social sustainability;

ü      Leveraging local resources with national and private resources;

ü      Facilitating the reduction of wildfire management costs, including reestablishing natural fire regimes and reducing the risk of    uncharacteristic wildfire;

ü      Demonstrating the degree to which various ecological restoration techniques achieve ecological health objectives and affect wildfire activity and management costs;

ü      Using forest restoration byproducts to offset treatment costs while benefiting rural economies and improving forest health.
 

Chairman Bingaman hopes to schedule a legislative hearing on the bill this spring.
 
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