WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the continuing trend for hotter fire seasons, Senator Steve Daines believes it's still critical to reform forest management. And he's preparing for another run at a bill to make those changes.
Senator Daines tells me the U.S. still needs a package of solutions to resolve the conditions that have left death and destruction in the aftermath of recent fire seasons. And he's ready to take another pass at a measure which got traction in Congress last fall.
“I think we're going to take the the same bill and move forward with it. We got very close and we should be reintroduced very soon.”
The Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act of 2020 stalled in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as attention turned to politics and the pandemic. But the Montana Republican believes the proposals are still sound.
"We're seeing a pressure from many, many areas now to move forward here with forest management reform. We've got bipartisan support. Dianne Feinstein, the Democrat from California, is working with me on a comprehensive forest management bill that would help us create better paying jobs here in Montana, promotes public safety and reduces the risk of these catastrophic wildfires.”
And there are specialized steps, directed at hazards behind many of the recent fires.
"We would use some tools that would expedite thinning projects along transmission lines," Daines says. "That's another problem we've seen in California and in Montana where, believe it or not, there's way too much red tape to get in and do some common sense thinning projects along electric transmission lines. That's just another example of what needs to be done to get people back in the forests managing the forests and keeping us safer.”
Daines also believes sustainable timber harvest is part of the solution, especially in light of skyrocketing lumber prices.
“And the reason we have fewer sawmills today than we did when I was growing up is constraints in the logs. Because the environmental groups litigate these timber harvests going into common sense thinning in the forests, and consequently there's a shortage of logs. And we've seeing mills closing down over the years and now it's become very painful for so many Montanans because of the high price of lumber.”
Daines believes there's a good chance of getting a forest management bill passed, saying lawmakers are looking for pieces bipartisan legislation. He hopes to have the bill introduced soon.