Public Lands Council (PLC), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Arizona Cattle Grower’s Association (ACGA) today hailed the U.S. House of Representative’s passage of wildfire legislation that will improve federal forest management to prevent catastrophic wildfire and support rural economies. The Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, H.R. 1526, passed with resounding support on a 244 to 173 bipartisan vote. Sponsored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), it 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.
“This wildfire package could save the livelihoods of thousands of ranchers on and near public lands,” said Brice Lee, Colorado rancher and president of PLC. “Millions of acres across the West burn each year, leaving many communities devastated and a whole lot of livestock with nowhere to go. I applaud Chairman Hastings and the other representatives, such as Paul Gosar of Arizona and Scott Tipton of Colorado, who contributed to this package by offering commonsense, concrete forest management solutions.”
H.R. 1526 includes measures to improve current forest management in a number of ways. It would expedite the regulatory review process in high-risk areas, allowing needed fuel-reducing activities such as livestock grazing and logging to go forward without delay; increase state and local involvement in wildfire prevention; and improve rural schools, infrastructure and overall economies by increasing timber harvests.
“This legislation is a bright spot in an otherwise gridlocked Congress,” said NCBA President Scott George, a rancher and dairy producer from Wyoming. “This bipartisan vote speaks to the simple truth of the matter: endless regulations and pseudo-environmentalists’ litigation is creating a tinderbox. It’s bad for ranchers, communities, wildlife, watersheds, air quality—all of the above. We need a change.”
Dan Bell, Arizona rancher and ACGA president, asked the U.S. Senate to take up the legislation without delay. “Our public lands are producing fuel loads at an astronomical rate; we need action by Congress to allow immediate fuel reductions to protect rural America. We must work towards building resilient ecosystems that do not fall victim to the large catastrophic wildfires that are threatening ranchers’ way of life.”