WASHINGTON – Tuesday (March 22), the Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal for the U.S. Forest Service with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell testifying. A focal point of the hearing was the Forest Service’s inability to actively manage federal forests and prevent increasingly catastrophic wildfires.
Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) called upon the agency to support H.R. 2647, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, legislation to alleviate a range of cumbersome and lengthy environmental processes and help prevent increasingly catastrophic wildfires from occurring in the first place. H.R. 2647 passed the House in July 2015 with strong bipartisan support.
“The Forest Service points out that fire suppression has become its greatest expense. The House addressed this last year in the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015 that now languishes in the Senate.” Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) stated. “The fact is fire expenses will grow every year until we restore sound forest management practices to our national forests and that in turn will require very different policies than those presented by the Forest Service today.”
“As I listened to your testimony, I thought we did that, we tried to help you out with the Resilient Federal Forest Act,” stated Rep. Westerman, the chief sponsor of H.R. 2647. “A lot of the things that you mentioned that you needed to make life better with the Forest Service, we have that in the Resilient Federal Forest Act. I wish we could get the Administration behind that to get it out of the Senate because I think it would make a tremendous positive impact on our national forests.”
H.R. 2647 solves the budgetary issues related to wildfire suppression borrowing and reforms management policies to increase the scope of management activities on a scale necessary to improve forest health across federal lands.