McInnis urges passing of forest restoration act

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— The U.S. Senate Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee recently approved a Healthy Forests Restoration Act written by Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, and the bill was placed on the full Senate legislative calendar for an upcoming discussion.

The legislation is aimed at containing the nation's wildfire crisis and addressing the growing incidences of fast-spreading outbreaks of diseases and insects threatening forests across the country.

McInnis' bill, which passed the House by a vote of 256 -170 in May, received a legislative hearing by the Agriculture Committee in June. McInnis urged the Senate to move with urgency to pass the forest health roadmap as soon as possible.

"It's been over two months since the House passed this landmark environmental legislation," McInnis told the committee. "I know the Senate is busy these days, but this is a crisis situation of enormous proportions and I would hope that my colleagues on the other side of the Capitol would treat this legislation with commensurate urgency."

The Healthy Forests Restoration Act would encourage proven fire and disease control techniques, such as prescribed fire and thinning, on federal lands at unnaturally high risk to wildfire or large-scale insect and disease epidemics. Of the 190 million acres identified by federal land managers as being at unnaturally high risk to wildfire, the bill stipulates that expedited procedures could be used to treat hazardous conditions on 20 million acres.

"The intensity of the 2002 wildfire season proved to us what kind of danger we are in if we don't work to defend ourselves from these infernos," McInnis said. "To get control of this situation, we must take the power out of Washington and put it back into the hands of our land managers on the ground. They are the true experts in this battle."

However, some environmental groups say the law does not adequately address all lands in danger of wildfire.

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