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Jaime Herrera Beutler, U.S. House Vote to Improve Health of Federal Forests

Bipartisan legislative solution will make federal forests much more resilient to wildfire and other threats without compromising environmental protection

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Washington, D.C. , November 1, 2017 | comments
Today, U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler helped the U.S. House advance a bipartisan bill reforming the care for federal forests by preventatively reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire and protecting against insect and disease infestations while maintaining environmental safeguards.
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Today, U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler helped the U.S. House advance a bipartisan bill reforming the care for federal forests by preventatively reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire and protecting against insect and disease infestations while maintaining environmental safeguards.

The Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, sponsored by Rep. Brad Westerman, passed the U.S. House today as a response by Congress to the wildfire season that decimated 915,145 acres of federal forestland in Oregon and Washington alone.

“With the recent wildfires that drove people from their homes and scorched the habitat of countless endangered species, we are unfortunately reaping what was sown through 20-plus years of failed forest management. Skamania County was once the envy of other counties; now it struggles to pay for basic police protection and essential school services, and we have diseased forests and declining wildlife numbers to show for it. The bipartisan bill we passed today begins to reform this complete mismanagement of our forests in a manner that focuses on healthier ecosystems while preserving environmental safeguards,” said Jaime.

“For too long, the ‘collaborative’ process that is supposed to foster the responsible management of our federal forests has been trumped by extremist lawsuits that block even the most modest management attempts,” Jaime continued. “This bill ensures that extensive public input is still sought and that the environmental safeguards of the Northwest Forest Plan are still met, but that true collaboration will lead to forest management efforts agreed to by all – and not dictated by the lawyers of Portland- and Seattle-based extremist groups. 

“We have a choice. We can continue the status quo and have another wildfire season like this last one that is estimated to have emitted as much carbon from the California fires as every car in that state combined last year. We can continue to not manage our forests in the name of ‘clean water,’ and then allow wildfires to burn so hot they melt the soil and cause massive erosion that destroys water quality. Or we can move forward with a bipartisan solution that provides protection to our national forest system by reducing the number and intensity of wildfires through better, more responsible management.”

Highlights of the bill:

  • Permanently solves the wildfire “borrowing” problem by allowing FEMA to transfer limited funds to the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management when the rest of their wildfire suppression funding has been exhausted.
  • Prevents wildfires and returns resiliency to federal forests.
  • Encourages quick reforestation and speeds habitat improvement.
  • Incentivizes and rewards collaboration.
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