SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is planning to ask the U.S. Department of Agriculture for permission to thin forests, clear out dead trees and do controlled burnings on protected areas that account for nearly half of national forest lands in the state.
The Republican governor is seeking to adjust how the U.S. Forest Service’s Roadless Area Conservation Rule is applied in the state to allow for better state influence over national forests following a particularly brutal wildfire season, The Salt Lake Tribune reported this week.
The rule protects listed national forest lands that do not have roads from some activities that would require new roads. The rule covers more than 6,500 square miles (16,800 square kilometers) of forest lands in Utah.
The state’s effort is intended to give forest managers the flexibility they need for projects to make forests more resilient and protect watersheds, air quality and wildlife habitat, Herbert spokesman Paul Edwards said.