The Denver Post

Senate bill would authorize $100M to help prevent catastroph­ic events

- By Matthew Daly

As wildfires rage across California and the West, Democratic and Republican senators have joined forces to help rural communitie­s better prepare for and prevent catastroph­ic wildfires.

A bill introduced Thursday by senators from three Northweste­rn states would authorize more than $100 million to help atrisk communitie­s prevent wildfires and create a pilot program to cut down trees in the most fire-prone areas.

Under a streamline­d approval process, forest managers would “thin” pine forests near populated areas and do controlled burns in remote regions.

The bill also calls for detailed reviews of any wildfire that burns over 100,000 acres.

Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state said the bill would “create new tools to reduce fire risk and help better protect our communitie­s,” especially those in the Northwest near fire-prone pine forests.

Cantwell, top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, cosponsore­d the bill with Democrats Patty Murray of Washington state, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican­s Jim Risch and Mike Crapo of Idaho.

Risch, who also serves on the natural resources panel, said the nation needs to “actively manage our forests to reduce the fuel available for fires to burn.”

The bipartisan bill is a compromise between Republican­s eager to make it easier for federal land managers to thin overgrown woodlands and Democrats dubious of allowing timber companies greater access to harvest federally owned forests.

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