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Boone and Crockett Club; Passage of Resilient Federal Forests Act, Long Overdue Step in the Right Direction
Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The group behind the creation of our national forest system - the Boone and Crockett Club - applauds Congressman Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and the House of Representatives for passing  H.R. 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017. The bill was introduced by Rep. Westerman and benefited from the bipartisan support of 232 Representatives and 25 national hunting and sportsmen's organizations.

The new bill will strengthen the Forest Service's ability to improve forest habitat for big game, game birds, and other wildlife while fixing the funding woes for fighting wildfires. Additionally, the bill creates new authorities for active management to restore the health of federal forests and local communities. The legislation builds on the Healthy Forests Restoration Act and the 2014 Farm Bill to speed projects from planning to execution, better fund the process, and strengthen collaborative support for beneficial and necessary projects that continually face the threat of being bogged down in litigation.

"Each year, we see the management budget of the Forest Service depleted by increasingly larger and more devastating wildfires," said Ben B. Hollingsworth Jr., president of the Boone and Crockett Club. "In the worse cases, up to 53 percent of the annual budget is used for putting out these fires. This leaves no funding for the important work of fire prevention, which keeps fire events small and more contained. Part of this new bill will allow the Forest Service to tap into disaster funds while maintaining their annual budget for fire prevention. This will not only help reduce devastating wildfires, but also create healthier forests that wildlife depend on and where people recreate."

Just this week Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte, co-sponsor of HR 2936, hosted  Congressman Westerman to view projects and fire damage in the state, where 2017 wildfires scorched some 1.2 million acres.

The Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017 also seeks to streamline the Forest Service's ability to carry out multiple forest health projects of the same kind based on a single environmental analysis rather than having to repeat the analysis each time a project is proposed. It will also expand the Good Neighbor Authority to increase partnerships with the states for watershed protection and restoration.

"Another positive gained from this bill is a reduction in superfluous litigation that only seek to derail positive conservation efforts through time-consuming litigation," said Hollingsworth. "Overall, this bill is a positive step for improved and more productive management of our federal forests, something we know how to do, but have had a hard time doing. We certainly hope this new bill now passes the Senate with the same sense of urgency shown by the House."

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