Congressman David Dreier (R-CA), Chairman of the House Rules Committee, testified today at the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands on behalf of his bill, H.R. 113, the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests Protection Act. Dreier said the legislation ensures the optimal protection for the Forests, enhances recreational activities, allows for crucial fire management, and preserves our natural resources.
"Because of their size and proximity to the Los Angeles region, the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests provide multiple recreational opportunities for residents and visitors as well as unique challenges," Dreier said. "Some of these challenges were made tragically clear when two firefighters were lost in 2009 fighting the Station Fire which ended up consuming more than 160,000 acres of public and private property. This terrible incident reinforced the need to work together to keep our firefighters safe. That is why I sought input from dozens of stakeholders, including local home and business owners, the Los Angeles and San Bernardino County Fire Departments as well as local and community leaders and recreational users to craft this legislation. I believe it strikes the right balance."
H.R. 113 would increase the wilderness designation in the Cucamonga and Sheep Mountain Wilderness Areas while maintaining the protection of private property and water rights. It also specifies that the new designations will not impede access to private property, drug interdiction efforts, military training or equestrian activities, and directs the Secretary of Agriculture to increase access for persons with disabilities. Furthermore, the legislation focuses on the importance of fire management and seeks to provide flexibility and improve communications between local, state and federal authorities in responding to wildfires that threaten communities in or near the wilderness areas. Finally, the bill directs the Forest Service to reduce the maintenance backlog that currently exists in the Angeles and San Bernardino Forests.
The Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests Protect Act has received the support of a wide variety of organizations including the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and the cities of La Cañada Flintridge, Monrovia, and San Dimas. P. Michael Freeman, former Fire Chief for Los Angeles County, submitted a statement discussing his work with Congressman Dreier on the legislation. It reads in part, "Preventing and containing wildfires is an issue that I have worked on with Congressman David Dreier for many years. In the aftermath of the Station Fire, my colleagues and I had many meetings on the lessons learned from this fire. In addition, Congressman Dreier and I discussed ways to better protect firefighters and prevent large-scale forest fires from occurring. The fire management section included in H.R. 113 is the culmination of these conversations."