October 19, 2017

Crapo, Risch, Wyden, Cantwell, Murray Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Fight Record-Breaking Wildfires

Western Senators Introduce Bill to Protect At-Risk Communities and Forests from Wildfires

Washington, D.C. – In the wake of another historic wildfire season, Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have cosponsored bipartisan legislation introduced by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to better prepare for and prevent costly wildfires.

The Wildland Fires Act of 2017 will help further the Federal and State firefighting agencies’ “National Cohesive Fire Strategy”  by authorizing additional funding for at-risk communities and directing Federal agencies to treat their most-at-risk forests to better protect communities and to reestablish natural fire regimes.  

Crapo and Risch, along with other bipartisan Senators, have been pressing leadership to include a long term solution to the problem of fire borrowing in any upcoming disaster aid legislation.  In addition to those ongoing efforts, Crapo and Risch have cosponsored Cantwell’s bill to bolster their efforts in the urgent need to reform how wildfires are prevented and fought moving forward. 

The Wildland Fires Act of 2017: 

• Directs the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to provide up to $100 million in funding to at-risk communities to plan and prepare for wildfires; 

• Establishes a pilot program that directs the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to treat their top 1% most-at-risk, least-controversial lands over the next 10 years (and in doing so install fuel breaks in the wildland-urban interface and, outside of the WUI, conduct prescribed fires); and 

• Authorizes longer-term contracts to provide stability to companies involved in restoration projects on Federal land, and gives a preference for companies that will use forest products to create mass timber, e.g., cross-laminated timber; 

• Authorizes the Federal agencies to re-purpose unused wildfire suppression funds to conduct preparedness projects to get ahead of the problem. 

“Throughout the American west, we have felt firsthand the devastation wildfires have on our habitat, our health and our way of life,” Crapo said.  “Congress must continue to pursue efforts aimed at reducing the risk and severity of wildfires, end the fire borrowing that takes funds from other Forest Service maintenance priorities, and improve the response, prevention and mitigation efforts.” 

“We need to actively manage our forests to reduce the fuel available for fires to burn,” Risch said.  “This bill is a step in the right direction to increase that desperately needed forest management.” 

In addition to Crapo, Risch, and Cantwell, the measure is cosponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.). 

# # #