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A new alternative to controlled burns introduced in Congress

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(The Center Square) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers introduced a new bill to Congress today to increase responsible, sustainable stewardship of public forest resources and potentially prevent future forest fires.

The Fostering Opportunities for Resources and Education Spending through Timber Sales, or FORESTS Act, would “encourage more proactive management of federal forests, reduce wildfire risks, and provide support to timber communities for investing in educational opportunities and economic development,” according to a news release from McMorris Rodgers office accompanying the announcement.

With wildfire season fast approaching in the Evergreen State, as previously reported by The Center Square, and new EPA guidelines that could take controlled burns off the table as a prevention measure, the Pacific Northwest may be running out of tools to curb potential tinderbox undergrowth.

“When wildfire smoke drifted down the East Coast earlier this month, many Americans were forced to face a reality we endure every single summer in Eastern Washington. For decades, catastrophic fires have ripped through our communities and diminished quality of life. But it doesn’t need to be this way,” said McMorris Rodgers in a statement.

Local elected officials seemed to agree.

“Year after year, we watch our national forest burn, putting communities at risk of burning homes and infrastructure while inundating surrounding counties and states with smoke for weeks and months on end,” said Stevens County Commissioner Wes McCart, before going on to call the FORESTS act “a step in the right direction” and “good forest stewardship.”

In nearby Pend Oreille County, County Commissioner Brian Smiley also offered cautionary words of support.

“For those that live, work, and play in and near our National Forest, it is clear there is a problem in much of our forest. A century of fire suppression combined with a misguided ‘hands off’ management attitude have left much of the forest unnaturally overcrowded with inappropriate small diameter fuels,” said Smiley, before going on to say the FORESTS act offers “common sense solutions to help prevent a looming wildfire disaster.”

The act, the full text of which is a mere 28 pages long, has the goal of establishing a framework to support logging communities and businesses, encourage collaborative forest management projects, and establish Forest Active Management Areas which would allow a portion of the revenues generated from projects to be shared with participating counties.

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