Lawmakers Propose to Boost Use of Prescribed Fires
Legislation would increase use of and funding for the practice
A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have proposed to greatly expand the use of prescribed fires across America’s forests and rangelands.
The National Prescribed Fire Act of 2021 aims to ramp up the number of acres across federal, state, county and private lands managed with prescribed burns. The act’s sponsors are Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., in the Senate and Reps. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., in the House.
To reach this goal, the bill would establish new funding accounts at both the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service and the Department of the Interior for prescribed fires on federal lands. The bill would also create a separate $10 million collaborative program to conduct these fires on county, state and private lands at a high risk of wildfires.
To support this expanded effort, it would create an incentive program for state, county and federal agencies to conduct large-scale controlled burns. It would also establish a workforce development program for prescribed fire practitioners, including employment initiatives for women, tribes, veterans and the formerly incarcerated.
The following is a statement by Cecilia Clavet, senior policy advisor at The Nature Conservancy:
“America’s forests and rangelands are facing threats like never before. Climate change, increasing drought and more than a century of fire suppression have created a dangerous and untenable situation for these landscapes and their communities. Prescribed fire, when done in the right place at the right time, can help address these challenges and restore balance to ecosystems.
“The National Prescribed Fire Act of 2021 will provide a much-needed boost to our nation’s prescribed fire workforce. Increasing funding and the number of acres treated will improve the health and sustainability of our forests and rangelands. Its emphasis on cooperative, cross-boundary burning will improve effectiveness and efficiency, while also promoting collaboration among government agencies, Indigenous peoples and others to create a shared ownership of fire. We commend Senator Wyden and Representative Schrier for working to improve the resilience of our landscapes and communities.”
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories—37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners—we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.