GOP-led House bill seeks to restore national forests, end overregulation of forest management

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WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 29: U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) testifies during a Republican-led forum on the origins of the COVID-19 virus at the U.S. Capitol. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

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UPDATED 2:44 PM PT – Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Members of the GOP introduced a bipartisan measure to protect the health of federal forests. Recent reports detailed the Resilient Federal Forests Act, which was introduced in recent weeks by Washington lawmakers Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse. The bill was initially proposed by Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman, who serves as the ranking member of the House’s Natural Resources Committee.

Reports said more than 80 million acres of national forests are overgrown and fire-prone. They added the forests are in need of active land management. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) recently praised Westerman and the bill.

“This bill is especially critical to a state like California, where our communities are annually devastated by catastrophic wildfires,” said McCarthy.

According to lawmakers, the bill would use state of the art science to determine the top 10 percent of high risk fire sheds, improve wildlife habitats, protect infrastructure and public safety where forests and urban areas intersect, encourage quick reforestation and remove hazardous trees while revitalizing the economy of rural areas. It also seeks to reduce frivolous lawsuits while increasing the pace and scale of critical restoration projects.

McMorris Rodgers pointed to the fires burning through the northwest, saying we can’t allow decades of overregulation and legal issues to stall forest management efforts any longer. She noted it’s time to cut through the red tape and give the forest service the tools it needs to better manage our forests.

In this long exposure photograph, trees smolder and burn during the Dixie fire near Greenville, California on August 3, 2021. - The Dixie fire has burned more than 250,000 acres and continues to get closer to residential communities. The 2017 Thomas Fire is now only the seventh worst by area destroyed -- and is likely to be overtaken soon by the Dixie Fire raging through the state's northern forests, as climate change makes wildfire season longer, hotter and more devastating. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

In this long exposure photograph, trees smolder and burn during the Dixie fire near Greenville, California on August 3, 2021. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The issue of forest management has long been on the Washington lawmaker’s plate, as she spoke about the issue at the beginning of last year.

“We should all, Republicans and Democrats, be able to come together to support healthy forests. When our forests are healthy, it becomes harder for these fires to take off,” stressed McMorris Rodgers. “But right now, we are not effectively managing our increasingly at risk forests.”

Both McMorris Rodgers and Newhouse have also sponsored an additional act that would give rural communities more resources to deal with wildfires. Fighting wildfires is also included in the Senate bipartisan infrastructure proposal with more than $3 billion devoted to wildland firefighting efforts and almost $6 billion toward national resource related infrastructure, including fire management and restoration.

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