U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler is one of dozens of members of the House of Representatives supporting a bill intended to curb the threat of wildfires.
Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has put her support behind the Resilient Federal Forests Act. Introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, the act would speed up essential forest management projects through a number of means, a release from Herrera Beutler’s office stated.
The bill features a host of provisions Herrera Beutler’s office says will speed up forest management projects by ending frivolous litigation, accelerate reviews for removing hazardous trees, and give the U.S. Forest Service tools to restore watersheds and improve wildlife habitat, according to the release.
In the release, Herrera Beutler said Southwest Washington communities are very aware of the danger fire and disease-prone forests pose, and the need for more active forest management to reduce the risk of wildfires.
“The lack of active management on the part of the federal government has resulted in abundant brush and decaying and dead trees that act as overgrown kindling, contributing to the disastrous wildfires that have taken lives, destroyed homes and businesses, and decimated our beautiful forests,” Herrera Beutler said in the release. “I’m helping introduce this legislation to help us have cleaner air and water, keep our communities safe from the ravages of wildfire and protect our precious forests and species throughout the Pacific Northwest.”
Westerman, the only professional forester in Congress, said recent wildfires in the west highlight the need for “proactive, scientific forest management."
"Decades of mismanagement have led to insect infestation, hazardous fuel buildup and dead and decaying trees, creating tinderboxes for the smallest stray spark to ignite a raging inferno,” Westerman said in the release. “It’s time for Congress to stop sitting on our hands and actually allow the Forest Service to use proven, scientific methods when managing our forests so that we can prevent these fires from occurring in the first place.”
The release stated more than 80 million acres of national forests are overgrown, fire-prone, “and in dire need of active management.” Westerman said states like Arkansas haven’t faced the frequency and intensity of wildfires elsewhere in the country due to actively-managed forests that are part of a “robust and prosperous forest economy.”
“Science shows forest management drastically improves the health of a forest, which is why the Resilient Federal Forests Act is so important,” Westerman said. “Every year we delay action means more lives, homes, property and wildlife habitats are destroyed by wildfires. There is no time to waste."