USA — The Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Arizona Cattle Grower’s Association are hailing House passage of the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act. The groups say the measure will improve federal forest management to prevent catastrophic wildfire and support rural economies. The legislation – sponsored by House Natural Resources Committee Chair Doc Hastings – passed on a 244 to 173 bipartisan vote. The bill includes measures from various previously-introduced bills designed to expedite the removal of hazardous fuels from national forests while simultaneously increasing the economic productivity of those forests. Measures are included to improve current forest management in a number of ways – expediting the regulatory review process in high-risk areas – allowing needed fuel-reducing activities such as livestock grazing and logging to go forward without delay; increasing state and local involvement in wildfire prevention; and improving rural schools, infrastructure and overall economies by increasing timber harvests.
PLC President Brice Lee says this wildfire package could save the livelihoods of thousands of ranchers on and near public lands. He notes millions of acres across the West burn each year – leaving many communities devastated and a lot of livestock with nowhere to go. Scott George – NCBA President – says the legislation is a bright spot in an otherwise gridlocked Congress. He says the bipartisan vote speaks to the simple truth that endless regulations and pseudo-environmentalists’ litigation is creating a tinderbox. George says it’s bad for ranchers, communities, wildlife, watersheds and air quality.
Arizona Cattle Grower’s Association President Dan Bell is asking the Senate to take up the legislation without delay. He says our public lands are producing fuel loads at an astronomical rate and Congressional action is needed to allow immediate fuel reductions to protect rural America.