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Bills seek to protect forest lands

The bills would protect use of fire retardant, target illegal pot grows.

Farm Press Staff

May 5, 2023

2 Min Read
Rep. Doug LaMalfa
U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., has introduced a pair of forest-related bills in Congress.Tim Hearden

A pair of bills by U.S. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., that seek to protect forest lands are making their way through Congress.

The House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee recently held a legislative hearing on the bills -- the TOXIC Act and the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023.

H.R. 1586, the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act, was introduced in response to an environmental group’s lawsuit to block use of fire retardant. The suit would require firefighting agencies to get National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits to continue using fire retardant, and are calling for an injunction on the use of this critical tool.

This bill creates a Clean Water Act exemption for federal, state, local, and tribal firefighting agencies so they can continue to use fire retardant to fight wildfires, according to the Congressional Western Caucus, for which LaMalfa is executive vice chair.

LaMalfa’s coauthor is caucus chairman Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash. Senate Western Caucus Chair Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) introduced a companion bill in the upper chamber.

The United Aerial Firefighters Association released the following statement of support: “UAFA notes with increasing concern the potential for a federal court to impose a restraining order against the use of aerially applied fire retardant as early as this coming fire season. Fire retardant is a proven, essential tool in assisting wildland firefighters in their fight to contain, control and defeat wildfire. As this lawsuit continues, with the potential to run into its second year, UAFA strongly supports Congressman LaMalfa’s legislation, the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act of 2023, which allows the federal, states, and tribal governments to continue the use of aerially applied fire retardants.”

Illegal pot grows

H.R. 1473, the TOXIC Act, is a bipartisan bill with Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) that gives resources to law enforcement to eradicate illegal marijuana grows on public lands, increases fines and penalties for such cultivation, and establishes a fund to restore land damaged by that activity. This bill aims to combat the organized crime and illegal cartel grow operations that are overwhelming rural areas, according to the lawmakers.

“Both the TOXIC Act and the Forest Protection and Wildland Firefighter Safety Act are common sense, bipartisan pieces of legislation that will improve the health of forested land and make rural residents safer,” LaMalfa said. “Every lawmaker on either side of the aisle should be in support of that.

“Our forests need action to prevent damage from both cartel grows and wildfire,” he said. “I’m happy to see hearings early on in the House Natural Resources Committee on both of these priorities to rural California and to America.”

LaMalfa, a rice farmer, represents far northern California.

Source: Office of Rep. Doug LaMalfa, Congressional Western Caucus

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