Goodlatte, Rehberg Force Action on Forest Wildfire Protection

Jul 25, 2002

National Forest Fire Prevention Act extends "South Dakota Plan" for others

July 25, 2002 – House Forestry Subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Montana U.S. Representative Dennis Rehberg acted today to extend to other endangered forests South Dakota Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's special exception for his state to receive an expedited route around environmental regulations for removing forest overgrowth. In late April, during the closing weeks of recent Farm Bill legislation, Senator Daschle rejected the already-negotiated forestry section's provisions to reduce the overgrowth that now fuels today's wildfires.

"Senator Daschle's recent trial by fire conversion allows his state to have the special leeway to clear dangerous deadwood fuels, and should signal that he now has few objections that the National Forest Fire Prevention Act be offered for others threatened by wildfires as well," said Subcommittee Chairman Goodlatte.

"South Dakota's John Thune brought forth the original proposal months ago," noted Goodlatte. "We tried during the Farm Bill Conference to include an amendment that would have given the Forest Service the ability to, quite simply, do their job, and conduct fuel reduction activities to reduce the threat of catastrophic fire in the Black Hills National Forest. But, unfortunately, we were flatly turned down by the Senate Democrats, led by Senator Tom Daschle. But now it seems that Mr. Daschle has changed his mind. He has slipped a similar provision to Mr. Thune's original proposal in an appropriations bill. I want to commend Mr. Daschle for realizing that we must start actively managing our forests."

Introduced Thursday by Montana's Representative in Congress, Dennis Rehberg, the National Forest Fire Prevention Act would:

· Repeat the Daschle language from the Defense bill on a National scale and allow for active forest management and timber harvests on fire-prone national forest lands.

· Authorize the Secretary to treat timber within or outside the existing cutting units for the National Forest System timber sales and within the analysis areas for these sales when treatment is necessary to reduce insect infestation or fire hazard.

· Within the timber sale analysis areas, specify certain criteria that the areas must meet in order to receive additional treatment. And, require the Secretary to use these criteria in a priority order.

· Allow actions authorized under this legislation to proceed free from bureaucratic gridlock. The National Forest Fire Prevention Act recognizes the extraordinary circumstances at issue and enables action to proceed without the limitations.

· Protect the future character of lands treated under this legislation by providing for and/or preserving wilderness and roadless designations.

· Provide for future evaluation of the implementation of this legislation by requiring a report to Congress three times between this November and November 2003.

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