The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation that would make it harder for environmentalists to derail federal forest management plans. The measure passed 232-188. Ten Democrats supported the measure; nine Republicans opposed it.

A member of the Arkansas delegation, 4th District U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, sponsored HR2936, also known as the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017. The Hot Springs Republican, who holds a master’s degree in forestry from Yale University, said the U.S. Forest Service needs more flexibility as it battles to save millions of acres of trees and timberland.

Forests in “many areas across our country have been mismanaged for decades. The ones that have not already been destroyed are ripe to be devastated by insects, disease or catastrophic wildfire,” Westerman told his colleagues. “Because of [inaction], our forests are overstocked, underutilized and unhealthy.” Arkansas’ U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford and Steve Womack supported the legislation. U.S. Rep. French Hill did not vote on the measure.

While lawmakers debated the legislation, firefighters were battling two large blazes in California. California fires this fall have killed 43 people. So far this year, more than 8.8 million acres have burned across the country, an area larger than the state of Maryland. The Forest Service alone has spent more than $2.5 billion battling the blazes.

The Arkansan’s bill would speed up the review process for certain forest management practices. Actions affecting 10,000 acres or less would not require a new environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement if the primary purpose was to battle disease or insect infestation, cut hazardous fuel loads, safeguard water supplies or protect critical habitat areas.

From Arkasnas Online: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/nov/02/westerman-s-bill-on-u-s-forestland-gets/