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.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?