(Richvale, CA) – Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) issued the following statement after sending a letter to Agriculture Committee Conferees requesting they include strong forest management provisions in the final Conference Report of the Farm Bill. The letter was sent along with other members of the Congressional Western Caucus.
LaMalfa said: “Wildfire season is at its worst in California. The Carr Fire quickly became one of the most devastating fires in the history of the North State, and we have decades of poorly managed federal forests to blame. We shouldn’t view worsening wildfires as simply inevitable, and instead focus on actionable solutions. As dead trees pile up and fires become increasingly severe, responsibly thinning our forests is now more important than ever. It’s imperative that any final conference report on the Farm Bill contains strong provisions to strengthen forest management practices. The House has approved a selection of reasonable and uncontroversial recommendations, and we expect the committee to seriously consider these provisions in the final report.”
A signed copy of the letter is attached. The letter recommended the following policy adjustments be included in the forestry title of the final Farm Bill of 2018:
- Allow existing and any new Healthy Forests Restoration Act authorities to be used within Fire Regimes IV and V. See Section 8321 of H.R. 2.
- Facilitate the use of Good Neighbor Authority by expanding it to counties and tribes and codifying existing practices concerning the flow of contributions and receipts associated with these projects. See Section 8331 of H.R. 2 and Section 8624 of H.R. 2 EAS.
- Accelerate post-fire restoration and reforestation projects through either a new categorical exclusion or, at the very least, by applying Sections 104 and 106 of HFRA to post-fire projects carried out under the Forest Service’s existing Emergency Situation Determination authority. See Sections 8312 and 8334 of H.R. 2.
- Establish an Action, No-Action authority for Environmental Impact Statements and Environmental Assessments to reward, incentivize, and protect projects that are developed through a collaborative process with diverse stakeholders. See Section 8335 of H.R. 2.
- Apply Section 106 of HFRA (“balance of harms” and other policies related to injunctions) to all forest management projects, and expressly clarify that courts must find that plaintiffs are “likely to succeed on the merits” before enjoining a forest management project. See Section 8336 of H.R. 2.
- Establish and expand categorical exclusions for projects that restore watersheds, protect water quality, improve forest health, allow for critical response, address insect and diseases, and reduce the risk of wildfire. See Section 8107 and Sections 8311-8321 of H.R. 2 as well as Section 8611 of H.R. 2 EAS.
- Streamline approval of, and afford tribes greater authority in, implementing projects under the Tribal Forest Protection Act. See Section 8401 and 8402 of H.R. 2.
- Establish pilot arbitration authority and include litigation reform to more swiftly resolve disputes over important forest management projects. See Sections 301, 311, 811 and 812 of H.R. 2936 and (g) of Section 8339 of H.R. 2.
- Update extraordinary circumstances regulations in order to allow expedited response. See Section 8503 of H.R. 2.
- Improve consultation under the Endangered Species Act. See Section 8303 of H.R. 2.
- Establish a voluntary pilot program that would allow a participating utility to conduct limited, proactive vegetation management work outside of its right-of-way on federal lands. This mitigation work should be conducted at the expense of the participating utility in order to better protect critical energy infrastructure from passing wildfires that start outside of the right of way. See Section 8502 of H.R. 2.
- Fully remove what the Obama Administration called the potentially “crippling” impacts of the Cottonwood decision by applying to the “new information” trigger under the Endangered Species Act the same reforms that recent appropriations legislation established for the listing of species and designation of critical habitat. See H.R. 6567.
- Fully Empower states to have a greater role in cross boundary management and codify the Landscape Scale Restoration program. See S. 962 as well as Sections 8104 and 8509 of H.R. 2.
- Exempt Alaska from the 2001 'Roadless Rule' and thereby boost forestry in several National Forest System units in which it has been artificially suppressed. See Section 8337 of H.R. 2.
- Allow new opportunities to conduct hazardous fuel removal on landscapes that cross federal, state, county and private property. See Section 8332 of H.R. 2.
Congressman Doug LaMalfa is a lifelong farmer representing California’s First Congressional District, including Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties.