In comments submitted June 10, 2016 Geos Institute's Chief Scientist provides analysis of 6 specific pieces of the proposed fire legislation in the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee:
- Ecological role of wildland fire in resilient and fire-adapted ecosystems is missing from the draft
- Restricts provisions of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) by restricting forest planning to the “no action” vs. “action” alternative and allowing for expansive use of emergency “alternative arrangements” will harm the environment
- Allowing for long-term (20-year) federal “hazardous fuel reduction” contracts (d – Long-Term Contracts) in dry mixed conifer and ponderosa pine forests is a disincentive to ecologically based restoration
- Not excluding inventoried roadless areas and other ecological important lands recognized in forest plans (e.g., Wilderness Study Areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Late-Successional Reserves, “high-value watersheds”) will cause harm to public lands with some of the highest ecological values
- Not addressing the risk of human-caused fire ignitions from an extensive and damaging road system on public lands misses an important contributing factor to uncharacteristic fires
- Reducing hazardous fuels in the backcountry diverts much needed attention away from homeowner safety
Read the full comments here
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.
A new whitepaper by Geos Institute Chief Scientist Dr. Dominick DellaSala summarizes the results of dozens of recent field studies in multiple regions on the effects of mountain pine beetle tree kill on fire severity.
"There is now substantial fieldbased evidence showing that beetle outbreaks do not contribute to severe fires nor do outbreak areas burn more severely when a fire does occur. Outbreaks are primarily the result of a warming climate that has allowed more beetles to survive and to have multiple broods within a breeding season."
(originally published in Greenwire, an E&E Publishing Service)
by Marc Heller, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, May 6, 2016
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took his plea for a new approach to paying for wildfire fighting to the nation's fire departments last night, telling hundreds of firefighters that Congress needs to set up disaster funding for forest fires.
At the annual National Fire and Emergency Services dinner, Vilsack said the borrowing the Forest Service does within its budget to pay for firefighting hurts the Agriculture Department's programs for small, volunteer fire departments.