Proven Forest Management Act advances; HR 188 would extend existing law that was passed as part of WINN Act in 2016 that provides for categorical exclusion from NEPA for forest thinning projects up to 10,000 acres under certain conditions in Tahoe Basin

Sample article from our Forestry & Timberland

February 5, 2024 (press release) –

Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Tom McClintock Representing the 4th District of California

Washington, D.C . – The Proven Forest Management Act, H.R. 188, has passed the House Natural Resources Committee and will next go to the House Floor.

H.R. 188 expands throughout the entire National Forest System the categorical exclusion for forest management projects that was secured for the Tahoe Basin in the 2016 WINN Act.

“Excess timber comes out of the forest in only two ways – it is either carried out or it burns out. For most of the 20th Century, we carried it out,” McClintock said.

“Beginning in the 1970s, we began imposing environmental laws that have made the management of our lands all but impossible. Draconian restrictions on logging, grazing and prescribed burns and herbicide use on public lands have made modern land management endlessly time consuming and ultimately cost prohibitive.”

The Proven Forest Management Act extends existing law that was passed with bi-partisan support and signed by President Obama as part of the WINN Act in 2016.  That law provided for a categorical exclusion from the National Environment Policy Act for forest thinning projects up to 10,000 acres under certain conditions in the Tahoe Basin .  Currently under NEPA, a simple forest thinning project requires an average of four and a half years of environmental studies and produce reports often exceeding 800 pages.

In the eight years that the Lake Tahoe categorical exclusion has been in effect it has taken the review time for thinning projects from four and a half years to less than four months.  It has streamlined reports from 800 pages to a few dozen.  Under this authority the Tahoe Basin Management Unit has increased the removal of excess timber from one million board feet a year to an average of nine million board feet.  Treated acreage in the Tahoe Basin has now tripled.

The recent Caldor Fire is instructive in illustrating the impact of the categorical exclusion.  The Caldor fire affected a wide region that included the city of South Lake Tahoe .  When the fire hit a tract on the Pioneer Trail that had been treated under this new authority the fire lay down and firefighters were able to stop it.  South Lake Tahoe was saved.

The legislation will expand throughout the National Forest System the categorical exclusion for forest management projects that was secured for the Tahoe Basin in the 2016 WINN Act.

“H.R. 188 is a necessary piece of legislation that makes an existing 10,000-acre categorical exclusion only available in the Tahoe Basin available throughout the entire National Forest System and on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management . This bill is an essential step for mitigating the dangers of out-of-control wildfires. I am excited to support this legislation and thank Representative McClintock for his work on this issue,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman .

Congressman McClintock’s remarks delivered in committee in support of the measure are attached:

Federal Lands Subcommittee
House Natural Resources Committee
Mark-up Hearing on H.R. 188
June 13, 2023

Mr. Chairman :

I want to thank the sub-committee for hearing H.R. 188.  

H.R. 188, the Proven Forest Management Act, extends an existing law, passed with bi-partisan support and signed as part of the WINN Act by President Obama in 2016.  That law provided a categorical exclusion from the National Environmental Policy Act for forest thinning projects up to 10,000 acres under certain conditions, within the Tahoe Basin .  

Under NEPA, a simple forest-thinning project requires an average of four and a half years of environmental studies that produce reports often exceeding 800 pages.  They cost millions of dollars to produce – often more than the value of the timber we are removing.  Federal timber auctions that once produced millions of dollars to the federal government now cost money, so not a lot gets done.  Federal timber harvests in the Sierra have declined 80 percent as a result. 

The Lake Tahoe Categorical Exclusion has now been in effect for eight years.  It has taken the review time for thinning projects from four and a half years to less than four months.  It has cut the reports from 800 pages to a few dozen.  Under this authority, the Tahoe Basin Management Unit has increased the removal of excess timber from one million board feet a year to an average of nine million board feet.  Treated acreage in the Tahoe Basin has now tripled.

When the Caldor Fire broke out in 2021, it was out of control and bearing down on the City of South Lake Tahoe .  But the fire hit a tract on the Pioneer Trail that had been treated under the new authority.  It lay down and firefighters were able to stop it.  South Lake Tahoe was saved.

The town of Grizzly Flats wasn’t so lucky.  It’s next door in the El Dorado National Forest .  For more than a decade, land managers have tried to thin the Trestle Project , that everyone knew was a clear threat to Grizzly Flats.  It was held up by environmental laws and the endless litigation arising from them and still had not been undertaken when the same Caldor Fire incinerated the entire town.

The Amendment in the Nature of a substitute makes a few technical changes based on feedback from the Forest Service to ensure that this bill is successful at delivering better forest health results across the nation.  

Specifically, it includes language to ensure that all of our National Forests and public lands managed by the BLM will benefit from the expedited active forest management provided by this legislation.  In addition, this ANS addresses some concerns raised by the Forest Service to ensure that responsible forest management projects do not suffer delays due to ambiguities in interpretation.  

MIL OSI USA News -

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