WASHINGTON – A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today shows that federal agencies need to put more emphasis on restoring and rehabilitating forests after wildfire.
According to the report, which was requested by the Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, “wildland fires can sometimes leave behind a burned landscape that threatens human safety, property and ecosystems. In areas of steep terrain, post-fire rainstorms can cause mudslides that bury homes, destroy roads and clog streams.”
The GAO recommends that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service do a much better job at tracking and reporting the extent to which they are restoring forests.
“H.R. 4200, the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act (FERRA), would greatly help the Forest Service and BLM fund much-needed restoration, reforestation and research. This report further hammers home the need to look at these issues on a wide scale,” Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said.
“I’m heartened that Senator Mike Crapo is holding a hearing on my bill this week, and hopeful that the Senate will be able to move FERRA this year in time to give the agencies the tool they need to quickly treat forests that have burned this summer.”
The report identified the Forest Service, in particular, as having “no national guidance on how to identify, prioritize and fund post-fire rehabilitation and restoration work,” and recommended that the agencies do more research in restoration techniques.
One example given by the GAO was the Bitterroot National Forest in southwest Montana and Idaho, where significant rehabilitation work was still needed on much of the 300,000 acres burned in 2000. The report’s findings are consistent with another GAO report (April 2005) that revealed the Forest Service to have a million acre reforestation backlog, primarily due to inaction after wildfires.
H.R. 4200 passed the House in May with strong bipartisan support.