Bipartisan Senate proposal eyes funding, promotes clearing
(Originally published in Environment & Energy Daily, Thursday, May 26, 2016) Marc Heller, E&E reporter
A bipartisan group of senators proposed draft legislation yesterday that would spare the Forest Service from borrowing money from forest management to fight wildfires while encouraging more forest clearing to remove potential fuel for fires.
The draft, called the "Wildfire Budgeting, Response and Forest Management Act," would allow the Forest Service and the Interior Department to tap a budget cap adjustment when the cost of fighting fires exceeds the 10-year average.
That provision is in line with requests Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has made repeatedly to Congress, culminating with his pledge this year to refuse to engage in any more budget borrowing for fires.
It also resembles the "Wildfire Disaster Funding Act" proposed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) in 2013. Both of those senators joined in crafting of the new draft.