President Donald Trump moved forward with policies aimed at preventing catastrophic wildfires while the media breathlessly covered the government funding battle.
Trump issued an executive order Friday to allow for active management of forest and rangelands, including thinning and removing debris from millions of acres of federal lands.
The order also calls on federal officials to streamline regulations and permitting processes to allow the harvest of at least 3.8 billion board feet from U.S. Forest Service lands and 600 million board feet from Bureau of Land Management lands.
That represents a massive increase in timber sales from federal lands. For example, loggers harvested 2.9 billion board feet from Forest Service lands in 2017, according to federal figures. But even Trump’s increased allowance for loggers is still about one-quarter of what was harvested in 1973.
Trump also asked federal officials to do more to maintain roads into hard-to-reach areas where fires can spread.
Killing the Deep State... Best Price: $3.14 Buy New $7.17 (as of 05:50 EST - Details) Western Republicans welcomed Trump’s order. GOP lawmakers said that a change in policies was sorely needed after the devastating 2018 wildfire season, which saw more than 8.5 million acres burned.
“While litigation activists thwarted forest management reforms, the Senate also failed to pass legislation to help minimize forest fires,” Utah GOP Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said in a statement.
“As a result, parts of the West were left in ashes. We cannot ignore these systemic issues any longer,” Bishop said.
Trump issued the order one day after signing the $867 million farm bill that included provisions allowing foresters to more quickly remove dead and diseased trees that increased fire risks.
Environmentalists railed against Trump’s executive order, characterizing it as a “gift” to the logging industry that would do little to prevent wildfires.
“It won’t work, and we know that,” Denise Boggs with the group Conservation Congress told The Sacramento Bee. “All the fire ecologists are saying the same thing: You can’t log your way out of this situation.”