Washington – Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Western Caucus Chair Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) led a letter to U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Randy Moore, urging USFS to increase the pace and scale of essential forest management activities. In part, the members wrote:
“Restoring the public’s trust in the safety and efficacy of forest management activities on National Forest System lands is particularly important given the drought conditions currently afflicting the western United States. Alarmingly, as of June 15, 2022, over 2.7 million acres in the United States has burned, outpacing every fire season of the last decade. Unfortunately, a substantial portion of this acreage burned as a result of escaped prescribed burns initiated by the Forest Service. Decades of fire suppression and mismanagement have left our forests overgrown and fire-prone, and it is vital that we use essential tools – including prescribed burns – safely and effectively to restore these landscapes to natural fire intervals. This work must be done carefully and with the confidence that these burns will not cause the very catastrophic wildfires they seek to prevent…
“When used correctly, prescribed burns are an essential forest management tool used by the Forest Service, local managers, and private landowners to thin overgrown forest lands and reduce the threat of wildfires for communities across the United States. Prescribed fires are supported by extensive scientific research, but they must be used judiciously during drought conditions and based on a thorough assessment of risk factors before they are initiated. We agree that a rigorous review must be conducted in order to assess the failures of Forest Service’s prescribed fire operations. With this mandated nationwide pause, however, land managers across the country are now deprived of a critical tool that – when used safely – could currently be aiding efforts to reduce wildfire risk, restore forest health, and create resilient landscapes. With communities throughout the West already amidst a record-breaking wildfire season, we cannot afford to be losing any tools that can help prevent catastrophic fires during this wildfire season and in the future.”
Read the full letter here.
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