New Forest Health Bill Aims to Expedite Removal of Dead and Dying Trees Following Wallow Fire
U.S. Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) today introduced the Arizona Wallow Fire Recovery and Monitoring Act (S. 1344), legislation that would expedite the removal of hazard, dead and dying trees in the community protection management areas in the Wallow Fire area -- Arizona's largest forest fire on record.
In the aftermath of this catastrophic wildfire, the Kyl bill strikes a responsible balance between environmental and economic interests. "Salvaging these fire-damaged trees will help prevent future fires in the area by reducing hazardous fuels on the ground, improve overall health and recovery of the forest, and provide an economic benefit to the area by putting the wood to good use," said Kyl.
The removal projects carried out under the Act must be completed within 18 months following its enactment. Revenues generated from the projects would be used to help pay for forest restoration treatments in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
"It's important to act while the trees still have an economic value -- something that did not happen following the Rodeo-Chediski fire in 2002, then our state's largest fire," noted Kyl. "Bureaucratic regulations and lawsuits by self-proclaimed environmental groups so severely delayed salvage efforts that, by the time the projects were cleared to proceed, most of the eligible trees had lost their economic value. We should not stand by and let that situation be repeated."
Highlights of the Kyl bill:
Requires a comprehensive evaluation of the forest conditions and hazard tree and fire-damaged timber resources across the Wallow Fire Area;
Limits the areas where dead and dying trees can be removed to Community Protection Management Areas;
Limits tree removal to hazard trees and trees that are already down, dead, broken or severely root sprung trees where mortality is highly expected;
Prohibits the construction of new, permanent roads;
Provides for an expedited, but thorough, environmental review of tree removal projects proposed in the Wallow Fire Area, including full public participation in the development of such projects;
Uses the processes for appeals and judicial review established in the bipartisan Healthy Forest Restoration Act;
Requires monitoring of the ecological and economic effects of timber removal projects; and
Authorizes the use of timber receipts to offset the costs of forest restoration.
U.S. Senator John McCain is an original co-sponsor of the Kyl bill.