On November 1, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, with bipartisan support. Introduced on June 20 by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR), this legislation will help improve the health of federal forests and reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires that are facing our nation.
This bipartisan bill will ensure sustainable timber harvests and the creation of young forest habitat for wildlife on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Lands. Additionally, H.R. 2936 offers a solution to the current practice of “fire borrowing” that impacts federal land management agency budgets by diverting resources away from other important conservation activities. Currently, funds to fight wildfires consume more than 50% of the U.S. Forest Service budget, and additional funds are often borrowed from other water quality, conservation, wildlife, and recreation program budgets.
Last year alone, the suppression of wildfires reached a record high of $2.9 billion, which is the most expensive year on the books. To put that in perspective, in 1985, the total costs of fire suppression for federal agencies was less than $250,000. This increase in the costs of fire suppression demonstrates the urgent need to proactively manage our federal forests to reduce the negative effects of wildfires on these forests.
Furthermore, this bill will implement forest management reforms that ensure the conservation of critical habitat for game species such as ruffed grouse, American woodcock, elk, and wild turkey as well as many nongame species that are dependent on young regenerating forests.
On June 26, the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP) sent a letter to the House Natural Resources Committee urging the Committee to act quickly on this legislation to improve the health of our federal forests and to reduce the impacts of costly wildfires.
H.R. 2936 will now be referred to Senate for further action.
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