Reps. Huffman & Thompson Offer a Better Way to Equip Communities for Future Wildfires
Washington, D.C.- In face of the wildfires that devastated Northern California, Reps. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Mike Thompson (D- St. Helena) offered a comprehensive, common-sense amendment to better equip federal and state forestry and wildfire agencies against the continuing threat of wildfires.
The Huffman-Thompson amendment is a substitute to H.R. 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act, which the House of Representatives will be considering later this week.
“In the wake of the wildfire crisis in Northern California, we must get serious about preparing state and federal agencies for future wildfires,” said Rep. Huffman. “Unfortunately, the bill that the House will consider this week is not that solution. It does little to address fire risk, and a lot to weaken environmental protections and limit public review of federal agency actions. We can do better than yet another partisan bill that we know will fail in the Senate. That’s why I am working with Rep. Thompson to offer a substitute amendment that takes a complete approach to federal and state forest management by freeing up Forest Service funds in the short term, and reducing fire risk for our communities over the long term. We need collaborative strategies to reduce fire risk, treat at-risk forests, and help communities prepare.”
“This amendment fixes the longstanding budgetary issues that have forced land management agencies to exhaust their budgets on fire suppression, preventing them from investing in fire prevention,” Rep. Thompson said. “By making the appropriate investments in fire prevention now, we can save money, property and lives in the long run, and help prevent future disaster likes the tragic fires in California.”
The Huffman-Thompson Amendment would directly address several key wildfire policies by:
- Incorporating language from the bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, H.R. 2862, that fixes the “fire borrowing” issue once and for all. Today, the Forest Service is spending so much time and money on increasingly expensive wildfire suppression that the budget to address future wildfire threats is constrained;
- Including language from bipartisan Wildland Fires Act, S. 1991, that reduces fire risk in the long-term by funding at-risk communities to prepare for wildfires, treating the top 1% most-at-risk federal forests over the next years, and authorizing agencies to conduct fire preparedness programs;
- Addressing hazardous vegetation management adjacent to electrical transmission lines along rights-of-way on federal lands; and
- Allowing states to apply for Hazard Migration Grants for wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts, an idea proposed in the bipartisan Wildfire Prevention Act, H.R.1183
Although Huffman and Thompson do support some elements of H.R. 2936, including the provisions addressing the long-standing issue of “fire borrowing,” the legislation as a whole primarily serves to weaken environmental standards and limit public participation in the review of federal agency actions. It provides the Forest Service with significantly expanded exemptions from public review laws, waives endangered species consultation requirements if the Forest Service asserts they are not necessary, prevents citizens from recovering attorney’s fees even when they prevail over the federal government in court, and gives Regional Foresters the power to waive stream protection guidelines. The bill also expands current exemptions in the National Environmental Policy Act to potentially allow up to 10,000-acre clearcutting projects without public consideration. H.R. 2936 also introduces a backdoor way to undermine National Monuments designated by President Obama.
The Huffman-Thompson amendment was submitted to the House Rules Committee yesterday. That committee will meet today to determine which amendments will proceed to consideration on the House floor.
Rep. Huffman previously voted against the Resilient Federal Forests Act in the House Committee on Natural Resources.