Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., this month introduced the Catastrophic Wildfire Prevention Act of 2013 (H.R. 1345) to facilitate a process to reduce hazardous fuel loads on federal lands through livestock grazing and timber harvesting.
The Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Arizona Cattle Growers' Association support the bill, which proposes to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire on areas managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
Cattle groups say it would streamline analyses performed under the National Environmental Policy Act in those areas, expediting fuels-reduction activities such as livestock grazing and timber thinning. When threatened or endangered species are at risk, it would also allow for hazardous fuels-reduction projects to go forward under existing emergency provisions of the Endangered Species Act.
Furthermore, groups add, it includes contract stewardship and good neighbor authority measures, which facilitate the completion of forest management projects through public-private partnerships and cooperation with state governments. This is an addition to previous legislation.
"Last year, more than 9 million acres were burned in one of the worst fire seasons this country has seen in the last few decades. In that scenario, everyone bears the burden of habitat loss — ranchers, western communities, wildlife and the taxpayer, to name a few," PLC President Brice Lee said.
NCBA President Scott George added that fires threaten both rural and urban communities and impair the watersheds the public depends on.
"The red tape beleaguering USFS and the BLM when addressing wildfires is endangering the lives and operations of livestock producers, threatening the natural resources the public depends on, and hindering economic growth," said George. "This bill seeks to put an end to these issues and allow for better management of public lands."