Last year’s intense fire season led to calls for more “treatment” of federal forests to remove excess fuel that can make for bigger, hotter wildfires. In November, House Republicans — including Oregon’s Second District Representative Greg Walden — passed a bill to grease the skids for more work in the woods. The bill now awaits action in the Republican–controlled Senate.

But while there’s broad bipartisan agreement that more needs to be done to promote forest health, the opposing sides can have very different pictures of what that looks like on the ground.

Nick Smith says the need for more active management of public forests is great, and urgent. “We have currently over a hundred million acres, according to the Forest Service, of federal forest land that are at some risk of catastrophic wildfire,” he says.

Smith is executive director of the industry-affiliated non-profit group Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities. He says decades of fire suppression and unwise logging practices — as well as climate change and drought — have resulted in forests that are dangerously overstocked and fire-prone. And, he says, current federal policies have failed both forest health and local timber-dependent communities. And that, Smith says, is where the Resilient Federal Forests Act comes in. “It’s aimed at reducing the cost and time it takes for agencies to implement projects on forests that are at immediate risk of wildfire, insects and disease,” he says.

The bill, also known as HR-2936, is co-sponsored by Oregon Second District Rep. Greg Walden. It would streamline the process for green-lighting forest projects in a variety of ways.

From Jefferson Public Radio: