Daines’ bipartisan bill prioritizes forest management to prevent wildfires

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) on Aug. 4 introduced bipartisan legislation that would increase wildfire preparedness and response throughout the United States.

“We must manage our forests, so they don’t manage us,” Sen. Daines said.

The senator signed on as the lead original cosponsor of the untitled S. 4431, which is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), to provide the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) with the necessary tools to protect communities from wildfires, according to a bill summary provided by Sen. Daines’ office.

“I am very happy to join Senator Feinstein in introducing this strong, commonsense forest management legislation,” said Sen. Daines. “This bill will speed up urgently needed projects to reduce wildfire risks, create good-paying jobs in the forestry sector, and protect public health and safety.”

If enacted, S. 4431 would direct the USFS to complete three landscape-level, collaborative projects in the West to reduce the risk of wildfire, according to the summary, which said the bill also would hasten post-fire restoration and reforestation by creating a new statutory authority that would not be subject to environmental review.

S. 4431 also would establish a new 3,000-acre Categorical Exclusion for reducing fuels alongside USFS roads, trails and transmission lines; specify that federal hazard mitigation dollars could be used to install fire-resistant wires and infrastructure and the undergrounding of wires; and would establish a new grant program in the U.S. Department of Energy tasked with removing biomass from national forest areas that are at high risk of wildfire, among other provisions, according to the bill summary.

S. 4431 has received support from the Montana Wood Products Association, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Northwestern Energy, and the Montana Logging Association.

“I look forward to working closely with Senator Feinstein to pass this legislation and send it to the president’s desk,” Sen. Daines said.