Bipartisan Fix Our Forests Act Introduced

I found this on Thomas Hochman’s TwitX feed , and I’m always interested in bipartisan stuff, so went to Rep. Peters (D) press release.

The D’s all look like Californians.

Original cosponsors include Representatives Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29), John Curtis (R-UT-3), Ami Bera (D-CA-6), Pete Stauber (R-MN-8), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-19), Tom McClintock (R-CA-5), Jim Costa (D-CA-21), Tom Tiffany (R-WI-7), John Duarte (R-CA-13), and James Moylan (R-GU).  

Interesting roundup of folks supporting..

The Fix Our Forests Act is supported by the National Congress of American Indians, Bipartisan Policy Center, the National Association of Counties, the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), American Forests, the Evangelical Environmental Network, Edison Electric Institute, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, MegaFire Action, the American Conservation Coalition Action, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the American Forest Resource Council, the American Loggers Council, the Arkansas Forestry Association, Associated California Loggers, the Boone and Crockett Club, the Dallas Safari Club, the Forest Landowners Association, the Forest Resources Association, the Hardwood Federation, Potlach Deltic, and Rayonier.

Not the usual suspects on this list include the Bipartisan Policy Center and Megafire Action.

  • Simplify and expedite environmental reviews for forest management projects in the highest risk areas
  • Promote federal, state, tribal and local collaboration on wildfire mitigation while encouraging engagement with landowners and communities
  • Recognize the role that natural fire plays in healthy ecosystems – which is backed by the best available scientific information – while acknowledging Tribal sovereignty in providing for practices like cultural burning
  • Support wildfire resiliency for local communities by focusing on the built environment, innovative technologies and modernized standards
  • Deter frivolous litigation that delay essential forest management projects
  • Create a framework for interagency collaboration to advance wildfire and land management R&D, provide technical and financial assistance to communities, and support efforts by tribes and other governments to address the effects of wildland fire on communities, including property damages, air, and water quality
  • Create a federal-state-tribal framework for prioritizing projects in the forests at highest risk of catastrophic wildfire
  • Encourage the adoption of state-of-the-art science and techniques for federal land managers, including innovative methods to sequester carbon dioxide
  • Ensure that utilities are able to better work with federal partners harden their rights-of-way while mitigating hazards
  • Strengthen tools like Good Neighbor Authority – which presently excludes Tribal Nations – and Stewardship Contracting

The bill may not be going anywhere but we can still discuss the ideas in it.. which might be cannibalized and used elsewhere.  I don’t have time to go through it today but Hochman’s TwitX piqued my interest. Maybe someone has an analysis they would like to share and discuss?

I’d just like to focus on the Fireshed Center for now.. (sorry about the formatting)

7 (1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary, acting
8 through the Chief of the Forest Service and the Sec9 retary of the Interior, acting through the Director of
10 the U.S. Geological Survey, shall jointly establish a
11 Fireshed Center (hereinafter referred to as the
12 ‘‘Center’’) comprised of at least one career rep13 resentative from each of the following:
14 (A) The Forest Service.
15 (B) The Bureau of Land Management.
16 (C) The National Park Service.
17 (D) The Bureau of Indian Affairs.
18 (E) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
19 (F) The U.S. Geological Survey.
20 (G) The Department of Defense.
21 (H) The Department of Homeland Secu22 rity.
23 (I) The Department of Energy.
24 (J) The Federal Emergency Management Agency
1 (K) The National Science Foundation.
2 (L) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
4 (M) The National Aeronautics and Space
5 Administration.
6 (N) The National Institute of Standards
7 and Technology.
8 (2) DIRECTOR.—The Secretary, acting through
9 the Chief of the Forest Service and the Secretary of
10 the Interior, acting through the Director of the U.S.
11 Geological Survey, shall jointly appoint a Director of
12 the Center, who—
13 (A) shall be an employee of the U.S. Geological Survey or the Forest Service;
15 (B) shall serve an initial term of not more
16 than 7 years; and
17 (C) may serve one additional term of not
18 more than 7 years after the initial term de19 scribed in subparagraph (B).
20 (3) ADDITIONAL REPRESENTATION.—The Sec21 retary, acting through the Chief of the Forest Serv22 ice and the Secretary of the Interior, acting through
23 the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, may
24 jointly appoint additional representatives of Federal
1 agencies to the Center, as the Secretaries determine
2 necessary.
3 (b) PURPOSES.—The purposes of the Center are to—
4 (1) comprehensively assess and predict fire in
5 the wildland and built environment interface through
6 data aggregation and science-based decision support
7 services;
8 (2) reduce fragmentation and duplication across
9 Federal land management agencies with respect to
10 predictive service and decision support functions re11 lated to wildland fire;
12 (3) promote interorganizational coordination
13 and sharing of data regarding wildland fire decision 14 making;
15 (4) streamline procurement processes and cybersecurity systems related to addressing wildland
17 fire;
18 (5) provide publicly accessible data, models,
19 technologies, assessments, and fire weather forecasts
20 to support short- and long-term planning regarding
21 wildland fire and post-fire recovery; and
22 (6) maintain the Fireshed Registry established
23 under section 103.

No one can be against “interagency coordination” but I can’t help but wonder if some of this will distance the modelers from the people on the ground.  I also note that procurement processes and cybersecurity systems will be streamlined, but why not streamline… hiring?  Maybe some or all of this comes from the Commission Report?  How can the agencies make this more effective than what we have currently and not a cluster? Perhaps this is just the beginning of the discussion that needs to happen.




8 thoughts on “Bipartisan Fix Our Forests Act Introduced”

  1. Yes let’s establish another layer of coordination and kick the can further down the road. I see nothing here that will facilitate getting it done on the ground. As far as the Fix our Forest act is concerned I would like to see an analysis by the USFS legal council as to whether or not it would be helpful. I assume the objective is to facilitate getting work done on the ground???

  2. This bit from the draft is interesting:

    Subtitle C—Litigation Reform

    (b) BALANCING SHORT- AND LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF FIRESHED MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES IN CONSIDERING INJUNCTIVE RELIEF.—As part of its weighing the equities while considering any request for an injunction that applies to any agency action as part of a fireshed management project, the court reviewing the agency action shall balance the impact to the ecosystem likely affected by the fireshed management project of—

    (1) the short- and long-term effects of undertaking the agency action; against
    (2) the short- and long-term effects of not undertaking the action.

    • “Fireshed management.” wow. Any idea when this phrase was invented, and by whom? Does it include PODS, or is that another committee and modeling team?

      Just learned another new word, “kakistocracy,” that may apply to this process and likely outcomes. No idea how the modelers could distance themselves any further from experienced field hands and reality, but they seem to be giving it their best.

    • “There is a balancing test that courts typically employ in determining whether to issue an injunction. To seek a permanent injunction, the plaintiff must pass the four-step test: (1) that the plaintiff has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for the injury; (3) that the remedy in equity is warranted upon consideration of the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant; and (4) that the permanent injunction being sought would not hurt public interest.”,upon%20consideration%20of%20the%20balance

      So I’m not sure what this “reforms,” other than requiring them to specifically consider these two factors. If this intends some other kind of “balancing,” like the court drawing its own conclusion about whether one outcome is better than another, I don’t think we want judges doing that.

  3. About a third of my 39 year Forest Service career was spent in a variety of fire related assignments which included District, Forest, National Office, and fire Research experiences, much of the focus of which was on working on significantly improving both the effectiveness and economic efficiency of national fire protection planning processes and programs. I can sincerely say based on that experience that while the proposed legislation does have a perhaps useful idea or two worth further consideration if they were properly implemented, as a whole its substantive effect would merely add a host of new counter productive bureaucratic problems to the overall existing issues.

  4. Assuming this is very similar to Westerman’s discussion draft released in May, I drafted up a summary of the bill, which you can access here:

    My Highlights
    • Codifies 20-year stewardship end-result contracting authority
    • Encourages and empowers cross-boundary work via establishment of fireshed management areas (similar to McMorris-Rogers’ proposed active management areas)
    • Enables full partnership between states and Counties and Tribes through Good Neighbor Authority
    • Improved reporting of hazardous fuels reduction work by agencies (addresses double counting)

  5. I have to say I agree with many of the other comments that it adds some unnecessary layers of bureaucracy to an agency overwhelmed with layers and multiple, conflicting mandates.

    I also couldn’t help thinking about Jennifer Pahlka’s astute observations in Recoding America about the challenges of implementing better data and reporting systems within “waterfall culture” which Pahlka defines as rigid, industrial-era cultures in which elites dictate policies that are disconnected from the detail of implementation. We would be wise to read and internalize Pahlka’s lessons before enacting any new policies related to digital government reforms.

    Also, a USFS western headquarters study? Really? Did we not learn anything from the BLM debaucle?


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