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Senate committee introduces wildland fire act

Idaho’s Senate delegation is co-sponsoring bi-partisan legislation designed to better prepare for and prevent costly wildfires.

Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch said the Wildland Fires Act of 2017 will help further the “National Cohesive Fire Strategy” developed by state and federal firefighting agencies.

Specifically, the act would provide up to $100 million in funding for at-risk communities to plan and prepare for wildfires.

It would establish a pilot program to help treat the top 1 percent most at-risk, least controversial lands over the next 10 years. That program would help install fuel breaks in the wildland-urban interface and conduct prescribed fires.

The legislation would also authorize long-term contracts to companies involved in forest restoration projects on federal land and give a preference to companies that would use forest product to create mass timber.

And, it would authorize the federal agencies to re-purpose un-used wildfire suppression funds to conduct preparedness projects aimed at getting ahead of the problem.

“Throughout the American West, we have felt firsthand the devastation wildfires have on our habitat, our health and our way of life,” Crapo said. “Congress must continue to pursue efforts aimed at reducing the risk and severity of wildfires, end the fire borrowing that takes funds from other Forest Service maintenance priorities, and improve the response, prevention and mitigation efforts.”

The bill is sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Washington). In addition to Crapo and Risch, both Idaho Republicans, the measure is cosponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Patty Murray (D-Washington).

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