The House of Representatives on Friday passed Rep. Scott Tipton’s Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Act.
The bill, cosponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., attempts to reduce wildfires through the establishment of a healthy forest management plan, according to a press release from Tipton.
The plan that Tipton, R-Cortez, has pushed for two years will increase logging opportunities at the state level by allowing states to overlook some environmental reviews. It also will provide a more efficient process of approval for forest-thinning projects in areas at high risk of wildfires.
The National Interagency Fire Center reports 38,119 fires have occurred since the start of 2013, with six deaths due to wildfires in Colorado in 2012, according to Tipton’s press release.
Without further action, wildfires are expected to affect more than 2 million additional acres of forest, residential housing and commercial developments in Colorado by 2030, according to Tipton.
Tipton said he hopes these changes will help proactively reduce property damage and deaths due to wildfires and yield many other benefits to rural communities.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – rings especially true when we’re talking about reducing the occurrence and severity of wildfire in our forests,” Tipton said in the release. “This important legislation will help restore sustainable timber harvesting, create jobs, and provide a reliable source of revenue for rural education and infrastructure.”
Logging is considered to be one of Colorado’s top 11 industry sectors, according to the state of Colorado.
However, the mining and logging industry declined last year, according to a state of Colorado press release.
The legislation dictates that 25 percent of the annual timber yield must be shared with rural counties, and a portion of the revenue will be given to rural school districts, The Durango Herald previously reported.
While the bill passed in the House, there is skepticism about whether it will pass through the Democrat-heavy Senate.
Many Democrats and environmental groups oppose the bill and its potential impact on the environment.
“They’re viewing our national forests as big ATM machines that they can just level out to fill county coffers,” said Noah Matson, vice president of Defenders of Wildlife, in a story reported by The Associated Press.
Suzanne Gaber is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.