Republican Congressman Jeff Flake, who represents Arizona's Sixth District, today successfully amended the interior appropriations bill to require the United States Forest Service to formally request alternative arrangements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for post-fire rehabilitation and restoration for fires in 2011 and 2012 that are larger than 250,000 acres. Under Congressman Flake's amendment, alternative arrangements would occur in the aftermath of last year's Wallow Fire in Arizona as well as the current fire burning in New Mexico.
The President's Council on Environmental Quality has the authority to authorize regulatory flexibility for agency actions dealing with the aftermath of catastrophic wildfires. Congressman Flake's amendment would ensure this flexibility is formally requested by the Forest Service.
"There's no place for bureaucratic delay in the wake of a large-scale wildfire, when any number of environmental hazards caused by the fire can make a bad situation worse," said Flake. "If there is regulatory flexibility available for forest managers dealing with the short and long-term impacts of large-scale, catastrophic wildfires, then it should be requested."