Wildfire Protection Act Passes U.S. House, Faces Uncertain Future in Senate
Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Catastrophic Wildfire Protection Act. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’s designed to shore up national firefighting efforts while developing business opportunities.
Central to the bill is the increased access of private companies to harvest trees from National Forests and other federal lands. It would require the secretaries of agriculture and the interior to speed up the implementation of awarding such timber contracts.
Paul Gosar is the Republican representative for Arizona’s fourth congressional district and the bill’s sponsor.
“We want to empower business to be stewards just like we are part of the stewardship application — that people can make a decent living and then it mitigates the forest danger and fire danger for us that live in those communities,” Gosar says.
Gosar says the aim of the bill is to reduce forest fuel that contributes to large wildfires. He also says it was crafted with the involvement of environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy.
“I would hardly believe that anybody believes that what we’re currently doing is a successful model. A lot of it is policy generated by folks that do not understand the science and what we deal with on a daily basis in our backyard,” Gosar says.
According to Gosar the bill also addresses insect and disease infestation as well animal habitat protection. The Wildfire Protection Act is part of the larger Jobs for America Act and was passed by nearly 60 percent of the House. The U.S. Senate has yet to take up its version the bill.