On May 8, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR) introduced H.R 2607, the Resilient Federal Forests Act, which would improve the health of federal forests and reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires.
Without jeopardizing necessary environmental protections, this bill provides categorical exclusions (CE) to the National Environmental Policy Act to allow the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to expedite routine forest management activities – including thinning trees and harvesting timber – in order to reduce the threat of insects and pests, disease, and wildfires.
This legislation would provide land management agencies with the additional tools to ensure forests are managed to provide for wildlife diversity, critical habitats, and water quality. It would also reduce the need for emergency wildfire suppression costs, which takes about 50% of the USFS funding every year. One CE in the bill would support management activities creating early successional forests, which would increase critical habitat for a variety of species including ruffed grouse, American woodcock, quail, elk, and wild turkey, as well as non-game species.
“Years of mismanagement have led to insect infestation, overstocked stands and dead and decaying trees. It’s time to allow the Forest Service to use proven, scientific methods when managing our forests,” Rep. Westerman said.
Similar legislation was introduced last Congress, but was not signed into law despite passing the House on a bipartisan vote.
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- Improve hunter and target shooter involvement in regulatory and legislative processes. (11.52%)
- Enact or expand temporary hunter education deferral programs (apprentice license programs, multiyear options, programs for all first-time hunters regardless of age, and programs promoting hunting of multiple game species). (11.52%)
- Offer shooting sports and hunter education as school activities and recreation programs. (64.40%)
- Link existing programming into family-oriented organizations (such as churches and home-school groups) where participants will have the social support to continue. (12.57%)