Senate Western Caucus Pushes for Robust Forest Management Reforms

U.S. SENATE — Chairman of the Senate Western Caucus, U.S. Senator Steve Daines (Mont.), and Caucus Members Cory Gardner (Colo.), Lisa Murkowski (Ala.), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Mike Crapo (Ind.), Jim Risch (Idaho), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Thune (S.D.), Dan Sullivan (Ala.), and Dean Heller (Nev.) today sent a letter to urge Farm Bill conferees to include robust forest management reforms in the final Farm Bill. These provisions will reduce the risk and severity of catastrophic wildfires.

Daines is the lone voice for Montana on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

“Wildfires have consumed more than six million acres thus far this year, which is substantially above the historical average for the same time period,” the letter states. “[W]e implore you to include a robust forestry title in the Farm Bill conference report that cuts unnecessary red tape, addresses the challenges of chronic litigation, and further empowers state and local collaborative partners to help develop and carry out science-based forest management projects.”

To read the letter click HERE.

Some of the provisions include:

  • Allow existing and any new Healthy Forests Restoration Act authorities to be used within Fire Regime IV.
  • Fully remove what the Obama Administration called the potentially “crippling” impacts of the Cottonwood decision by applying to the “new information” trigger under the Endangered Species Act the same reforms that recent appropriations legislation established for the listing of species and designation of critical habitat. See S. 3292/H.R. 6567.
  • Facilitate the use of Good Neighbor Authority by expanding it to counties and tribes and codifying existing practices concerning the flow of contributions and receipts associated with these projects.
  • Accelerate post-fire restoration and reforestation projects through either a new categorical exclusion or, at the very least, by applying Sections 104 and 106 of HFRA to post-fire projects carried out under the Forest Service’s existing Emergency Situation Determination authority.
  • Establish a new categorical exclusion for projects that restore watersheds and protect water quality.
  • Establish a pilot arbitration authority to more swiftly resolve disputes over forest management projects.

Including forest management reforms in the final Farm Bill has significant support from diverse wildlife and sportsmen groups.

Today, over 20 wildlife and sportsmen groups sent a letter to House and Senate Farm Bill conferees in support of including forest management reforms in the final Farm Bill. Click HERE to read the letter.

On August 31, 2018, a coalition of water resource organizations sent a letter to House and Senate Farm Bill conferees in support of including commonsense forest management reforms in the final Farm bill. The Federal Forest Resource Coalitions sent a letter on July 27, 2018.