New legislation would require Forest Service to ‘immediately suppress wildfires’

Mountain Democrat Staff

Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-04) and Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-01) introduced legislation March 2 directing the U.S. Forest Service to immediately suppress wildfires on national forest system lands and put an end to the policy of letting fires burn.

“This ‘let burn’ policy of federal land managers began in 1972, during the height of the radical environmental movement,” McClintock stated in a news release. “It stems from the premise that fire is nature’s way of cleaning up forests and that active suppression of fires leads to a build-up of excess fuels. As we have tragically witnessed firsthand, it is dangerous nonsense to ‘monitor’ incipient fires in today’s forest tinderbox.”

According to McClintock, the U.S. Forest Service was formed to remove excess growth before it can burn and to “preserve forests in a healthy condition from generation to generation.”

With wildfires burning in drought-stricken California at a record rate, LaMalfa shared a statement urging the days of “monitoring” fires to end.

“The Forest Service’s monitoring policy and ‘watch and wait’ has allowed multiple catastrophic fires to unnecessarily escalate and devastate our wildlands and rural towns,” LaMalfa stated. “In 24 hours, what starts out as a small blaze can expand to consume thousands of homes, municipal facilities and businesses.”

LaMalfa added that unmanaged, overgrown forests are a “ticking timebomb for another massive fire.”

Solutions suggested by LaMalfa — aggressive initial attacks on fires, forest thinning near towns and infrastructure, wider buffer zones around power lines and using roads as firebreaks.

LaMalfa’s statement concluded by asking, “Why is America the No. 2 importer of wood while our own forests burn to the ground — causing untold damage to families, pollution that chokes half the country and destroying the environment?”

McClintock and LaMalfa sent a letter to Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Randy Moore urging him to implement these policies for the upcoming wildfire season.

In January the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service released a 10-year strategic plan, “Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests,” that maps out action aiming to increase fuels and forest health treatments by up to four times what’s currently being done as part of a $3 billion effort, according to a Forest Service news release.

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