Forest Service gives Westerman wildfire bill mixed reviews

By Marc Heller | 04/18/2024 06:43 AM EDT

The administration opposes requiring wildfires be put out within 24 hours.

Chris French.

Chris French, the Forest Service's deputy chief, on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Natural Resources Committee/YouTube

House Natural Resources Chair Bruce Westerman’s proposal to put out more wildfires, faster, hit a speed bump in a hearing Wednesday.

The Forest Service and a representative of a federal wildfire commission said they oppose the Arkansas Republican’s idea to require the Forest Service to extinguish wildfires within 24 hours across the most fire-prone national forests, part of a comprehensive draft of forest policies he recently floated.

“The agency has serious concerns that this language would remove critical resource management and firefighting tools and tactics from interagency responders who have to make life-and-death decisions,” said Forest Service Deputy Chief Chris French in testimony to the Subcommittee on Federal Lands.


The chilly response to the fire suppression provision contrasted to more positive views of other aspects of Westerman’s draft, which calls for creation of “firesheds” that would receive expedited thinning and prescribed fire to reduce the threat of wildfire, as well as updates to shared stewardship arrangements that allow the Forest Service to partner with outside groups for forest improvement projects.