Press Release from the Congressional Western Caucus July 15, 2011:
Reps. Gosar, Flake, and Pearce Introduce Forest Health Legislation Aimed at Removing Dead and Dying Trees Following Wallow Fire
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressmen Paul Gosar (AZ-01), Jeff Flake (AZ-06), and Steve Pearce (NM-02) today introduced the Wallow Fire Recovery and Monitoring Act, legislation that would expedite the removal of hazard, dead and dying trees in the community protection management areas in the Wallow Fire area.
“It is critical fire-damaged trees are removed in the Wallow Fire area while they still have economic value,” said Gosar. “Our legislation presents a common-sense solution, putting forth an expedited, but sound environmental process for removal projects. Ultimately this work will improve the overall health of the forest and the safety of our constituents, while yielding economic benefits for our district by putting the salvageable wood to use.”
“Congress can’t continue to let the federal bureaucracy and lawsuits dictate our efforts to salvage timber in fire damaged areas,” said Flake. “Expediting timber salvage operations for the more than half -million acres that burned in the Wallow fire will speed economic and environmental recovery for the area.”
“For decades, reckless forest management has killed logging jobs and contributed to dry, overcrowded forests,” said Pearce. “This year, we have seen the consequences as hundreds of thousands of acres have gone up in flames, costing hundreds of millions of dollars and wasting valuable timber. This legislation is a commonsense solution that will help with local job creation and provide an important first step in returning to responsible forest management.”
In the wake of this tragic and catastrophic wildfire, the Wallow Fire Recovery and Monitoring Act forms a responsible balance between environmental and economic interests. The legislation requires a comprehensive evaluation of the forest conditions and hazard tree and fire-damaged timber resources across the Wallow Fire Area, as well as limits the areas where dead and dying trees can be removed to community protection management areas.
Tree removal would be limited to hazard trees and trees that are already down, dead, broken, or severely root sprung trees where high mortality is expected. This legislation also 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.
Under the Act, the removal projects must be carried out within 18 months following its enactment to ensure the work is done while the resources are still salvageable. The revenues generated from the projects would then be put toward forest restoration treatments in the Apache-Sitgraves National Forest.
The Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in the State of Arizona’s recorded history, started in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest on May 29th, 2011. In a little over a month, the wildfire charred more than 538,000 acres or 841 square miles of land in Apache, Greenlee, Graham, and Navajo counties, including the San Carlos and Fort Apache Reservations, in Arizona and Catron County in New Mexico. Nearly 600 brave fire personnel fought the blaze, which the authorities state has cost an estimated $109 million.
Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduced similar legislation, S. 1344, the Arizona Wallow Fire Recovery and Monitoring Act, in the United States Senate on July 11th, 2011. Senator John McCain is an original co-sponsor of the Kyl legislation.