Forest Service resumes prescribed fire program, but some fear new rules will delay projects
The U.S. Forest Service announced Friday that it will resume controlled-fire programs on national forest lands and in national forests outside national forests. The service said a draft revision to the agency’s land management policies has given the agency the authority it needs to carry out the programs. The draft revision is open for public comment through Nov. 6. In addition, the service also released new guidance in a public-comment period that addresses some of the changes that have been proposed in the draft. The draft revision and public comments will inform a final revision this spring, which will be presented to the Forest Service Board before being sent to the president.
The firefighting authority was originally part of the Service’s land management policies when it was drafted in 2013. The change was made after the 2013 policy was adopted after a period to let agencies review the proposal and get comments before a final vote. It was then modified when a draft revision was submitted to Congress in 2014.
“We are hopeful that the revision will allow the Forest Service to continue to use controlled fire to help manage wildfire on our lands, and help improve the quality of life for the American people,” said U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Nanticoke, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Parks.
The changes to the land management policies would take effect when they are formally adopted into the Service’s regulations, Bacon said.
The revisions also would require agencies to use more frequent burn advisories. The Service said in a statement that it is “not proposing any major changes to the current fire policy and burn advisories” and will continue to issue fire management advisories to give first responders, landowners and public safety officials a consistent way of communicating burning conditions.
Wildfires are still high across the United States, and many people still aren’t certain why.
Many national and state agencies say they’re