WASHINGTON. D.C. – In response to widespread drought conditions across much of the West, Utah Rep. Blake Moore, R-1st District, has proposed legislation to improve national wildfire prevention efforts.
“More than a billion acres of land in the U.S. are at risk for wildfires,” Moore said Thursday as he introduced the Forest Improvements through Research and Emergency Stewardship for Healthy Ecosystems Development and Sustainability (FIRESHEDS) Act into the House Committee on Natural Resources.
“This is a major problem in Utah and across the West as we experience a historic drought season. This rapid uptick in wildfires is due to forests being overstocked with fuel, fire exclusion policies, drought and more.
“The FIRESHEDS Act would address these challenges by giving our land managers the tools they need to better prevent, mitigate and respond to wildfires.”
The FIRESHEDS Act is a bipartisan and bicameral legislative initiative, with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) joining Moore in pushing the proposal.
Specifically, the FIRESHEDS Act would encourage the establishment of fireshed management areas in partnership with state governments. One or more of those areas would be designated by the Interior Department within states to conduct wildfire management projects.
The goal of those projects would be to reduce threats to public health, critical infrastructure, wildlife habitats and watersheds through the use of advanced technologies and innovative wildfire hazard models.
As of July 19, the National Interagency Fire Center reported that the U.S. had experienced more than 35,000 wildfires in 2021. Those blazes had consumed more than 2.6 million acres of land.
On that date, nearly 20,000 firefighters were deployed against 105 active fires in 12 states. Sixty-six of those wildfires were considered to be large-scale events and 60 of them were uncontained at that time.
The national average number of wildfires year-to-date is 32,000, so the current count for 2021 represents a 10 percent increase in the number of fires in the U.S.
Fire managers here in Utah consider it nearly a miracle that the state has yet to experience a major wildfire this year.
Moore’s FiRESHEDS Act is also supported by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Natural Resources.
“Record-breaking wildfires have already burned more than 2 million acres this year, highlighting more than ever the need for active forest management,” Westerman explained. “Rep. Moore’s FIRESHEDS Act offers a brand new landscape-scale management concept that is based on cutting-edge Forest Service fireshed management mapping to identify and treat extremely high-risk areas and communities.
“We will be able to use this legislation as part of larger solutions…” he added “to combat years of mismanagement so Americans can enjoy our forest for generations to come.”