MICHAEL T. RAINS' LETTER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP
“THE ‘FIRE FIX' DOES NOTHING TO BACKFILL THE HUGE GAP THAT HAS BEEN CREATED IN LOST NON-FIRE AND FOREST MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES FOREGONE.”
23 MINUTE READ
“THE ‘FIRE FIX’ DOES NOTHING TO BACKFILL THE HUGE GAP THAT HAS BEEN CREATED IN LOST NON-FIRE AND FOREST MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES FOREGONE.”
Editor’s Note: Next week, we begin a five-part interview with our colleague, Michael Rains, one of the finest minds the U.S. Forest Service ever employed. Now retired following a distinguished 30-plus-years with the agency, he tutors children with special education needs, mainly from his Broomall, Pennsylvania home.
Mr. Rains wrote the President a five-page letter on June 19 that is easily the best description of the West’s wildfire crisis we’ve ever read. More broadly, he explains the crisis facing the Forest Service and, in a 15-page addendum, he composes an Executive Order the President could sign today that would go long way toward putting the Forest Service back on track while quieting the wildfire crisis.
Bottom line: aggressive fire management will only succeed if it is preceded by and includes a far more aggressive forest management approach than exists today. His approach is widely supported by stakeholder collaboratives that are working with the Forest Service on dozens of restoration projects throughout the West.
We are posting Mr. Rains letter to President Trump to pique your interest in our five-part interview with him. It begins next week.
June 19, 2018
The President The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
On December 17, 2017 and April 9, 2018, I wrote you letters about the critical state of the nation’s landscapes created by catastrophic wildfires and their impacts to loss of life and property. I discussed a way out. That is, enhanced forest management that enables fire management to eventually become a land conversation tool as opposed to destructive behemoths, especially in the western part of our country. Once again, I want you to be very aware that:
“…the management of America’s forestlands, with a concentration on our National Forests, needs to be emphasized so wildfires can remain smaller and begin again to be a tool for improved forest health as opposed to destructive events that destroy lives, communities and landscapes.”
To do this requires additional funds – at least +$1.3 billion — for the United States Forest Service for the next 3-5 years, minimally. The 2018 “Omnibus Spending Bill” does not include these additional funds nor does the recent Senate and House Action on the proposed 2019 budget. And, respectfully, your 2019 proposed budget was not close to helping address the situation. I am assuming you were not aware of the reason for the current plight. If you knew, I believe you would address the problem much more proactively. Allow me to explain.
In 1995, fire made up 16 percent of the Forest Service’s annual appropriated budget. In 2016, for the first time, more than one half of the Forest Service’s annual budget was dedicated to wildfire. Looking to the forecasts for this 2018 fire season, it is safe to say the percentage for fire actions will continue to increase. Simply put, more and more funds of the Forest Service budget will shift to the fire suppression effort. Along with this shift in resources, there has also been a corresponding shift in staff, with about a 40 percent reduction in all non-fire personnel over the last thirty years. This is a key point.
As the fire program gets larger and everything else in the Forest Service becomes smaller, the ability to carry out the land conservation mission has all but stalled. It is easy to see these impacts over the last three decades, especially. Forestlands are not being managed at a pace and scale they need to be in order to remain healthy and more resilient to disturbances – like wildfires. Without adequate management, forest stands become clogged – about twice as much biomass is produced than is removed — and when wildfires happen, the results are large fires with high intensities. In other words, fires that are extremely destructive to everything in their path.
Mother Nature is extremely resilient. But severe fires—especially in ecosystems not suited to severe fire—can and often do completely alter the composition, structure, and functions of forest ecosystems for an extended period. The objective of using fire as a conservation tool is to have wildfires remain low to moderate severity so that the reconstructive effects of fire on the landscape are more immediate versus decades in the making.
Recently, you signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018. This included the “Wildfire and Disaster Funding Adjustment”, whereby additional funds for wildfire emergencies shall be authorized. It is being called the “fire fix.” If actually deployed, these emergency funds could be available beginning in 2020. However, for this year and 2019, the Forest Service can expect more of the same. That is, shifting from management actions to fire suppression. This is called working at cross purposes. Many of the forest management actions that have been and will continue to be reduced [for the fire effort] are the same actions that can help reduce the size and intensity of the fires.
Many are concluding that the “fire fix” will solve all the problems with the admonishment to “…just be patient and in 2020 the problems we now face will disappear.” Mr. President, please know that nothing could be further from reality.
H.R. 1625 does authorize emergency firefighting funds ranging from $2.25 to $2.95 billion, from 2020 to 2027. And the 10-year average for fire suppression—a figure used by the Forest Service for budget-development purposes—will be frozen at the 2015 level of $1.4 billion. For reference, the 10-year average in 2001 was about $475 million.
As I stated earlier, since the late 1980’s, there has been a tremendous decline in forest-management work across our country, especially on the National Forests and even more profoundly in the rural areas. Again, everything was being shifted to the fire effort. The “fire fix”, if actually deployed in 2020, would enable this shift to stop. And the percentage of the Forest Service budget for fire control should not increase. All of this is good news.
However, it must be clear, the “fire fix” certainly does nothing to backfill the huge gap that has been created in lost non-fire skills and forest management activities foregone. So, it is critical that this be recognized and new momentum be immediately established for the next step. That is, to deploy a comprehensive forest management strategy so effective fire management can be achieved and sustained.
This strategy will require new funds – in the range of +$1.3 to $2.2 billion for the next 3-5 years minimally — to help replenish the skills and work that have been so dramatically shifted away from the Forest Service forest management programs.
The 2018 “Omnibus Spending Bill” does not include these additional funds nor does the most recent House and Senate Actions through their Appropriation Subcommittees. Unless these funds are provided for, the “fire fix” will have little to do with helping fire become the conservation tool America’s landscapes require – perhaps especially for the 80 million acres of National Forests that are now considered to be at high-risk from destructive wildfires.
In my earlier letter to you, I provided this quote from a Member of Congress from your party. It deserves repeating: “…It [the “fire fix”] doesn’t solve the problem. Solving the problem is stopping the damn fires, not spending more money to put them out once they get started.” Fundamentally what this statement says is, increased fire management requires aggressive forest management. Otherwise, we simply spend more and more money on controlling wildfires, with no end in sight.
A key feature for improved fire management through enhanced forest management is increasing the current timber harvest level from the National Forests from 3.4 Billion Board Feet (BBF) to at least 6 BBF. The latest Senate Action seems to call for an increase to 4.0 BBF. Unfortunately, this level will not allow for any significant change in forest management, thus improved fire management. The focus will continue to be on fire suppression.
The increase in funds will also allow for an increased level of hazardous fuels to be removed. The current funding level is woefully inadequate. I cannot overstate the importance of this.
In the late 1990s, a General Accounting Office (GAO) report noted that “the most extensive and serious problem related to the health of forests in the interior West is the over-accumulation of vegetation, which has caused an increasing number of large, intense, uncontrollable, and catastrophically destructive wildfires.”
When Managing the Impacts of Wildfires on Communities and the Environment — the National Fire Plan — was written, it was thought that about $850 million annually was required to more effectively address the issue of hazardous-fuels removal. More recently, in 2013, the General Accounting Office concluded it would take about $69 billion over a 16-year period—$4.3 billion each year. Relying on taxpayer dollars, the Forest Service has managed an average of about $300 million annually for hazardous-fuels treatment. Thus, with only a fraction of required funds available, focusing work only on the highest-priority areas is fundamental to success.
But, let’s be candid. No amount of targeting will offset this level of funding shortfall. For example, in 2001, there were about 38 million acres on our National Forests considered to be at high risk from destructive wildfires. Now, the estimate is 80 million acres. So, after about $5 billion in expenditures for hazardous fuels treatment, we now have an additional 42 million acres at high risk. To overstate the obvious: you cannot address a problem of this magnitude with such excessively inadequate resources.
Your help is needed now to correct this.
Earlier I stated that due to the extreme costs of fire suppression, fewer funds and resources are available to support the very programs and restoration projects that reduce the fire threat. A program that emphasizes the innovative, cost-effective use of biomass is a prime example. Some examples of uses for biomass are wood-based nanotechnology; “green” building construction, including advanced composite materials; and certain aspects of energy production, such as torrefaction, which removes moisture and volatiles from woody biomass, leaving bio-coal, an advanced, more-efficient form of wood for energy. Such uses offer pragmatic market-based solutions to help forests become more resilient to such disturbances as widespread catastrophic fire loss. Biomass uses are outcomes from restorative actions to our forests.
It is estimated that a strong, well-established program in cost-effective biomass uses could create high-value markets from low-value wood that would otherwise be left dead or dying. Combined with a more adequate timber harvesting program, this could reasonably help restore up to 19 to 20 million forested acres annually. About one half of the nation’s 885 million acres of forestland currently requires some type of restorative action. This pace and scale of restoration could reduce future fire-suppression costs in the range of 12 to15 percent (some suggest as high as 23 percent)—about $350 to $500 million based on the 2017 fire-suppression costs by the Forest Service. Simply put, it makes good economic sense to aggressively invest in biomass uses — as part of the overall forest management strategy — to help achieve more-resilient forests. For reference, an aggressive investment in biomass uses by the Forest Service would be about $33 million in years 1 to 3, or about two firefighting shifts.
In my previous letter to you on April 9, 2018, I attached a draft Executive Order that I believe will help improve the management of the nation’s forests so these forests become healthy, sustainable and more resistant to disturbances [wildfires]. As a way to focus the necessary required actions that we face, I still believe an Executive Order is appropriate. It should be approved, signed and deployed. That draft Executive Order is attached to this letter in case the previous one was lost with my earlier communique.
Please allow me to summarize:
- The management of the nation’s forests, especially the National Forests, need immediate, aggressive attention.
- Years of shifting resources (skills, money and projects) from non-fire work to the fire effort has created a huge gap in the ability of the Forest Service to carryout forest management actions on the ground. Thus, wildfires are larger and more intense than ever before.
- The current 2018 budget; the 2019 proposed budget; and, the latest Senate and House Action on the proposed budget do not address, in any significant way, the required forest management needs of our country, perhaps especially those on the National Forests. Thus, large, high intensity wildfires will not subside.
- The so called “fire fix”, if deployed in 2020 can help slow the shift of non-fire activities for the fire effort. But, we cannot let the “fire fix” keep us from understanding that the real brass ring that the Forest Service is searching for is effective fire management resulting from aggressive forest management. That is, the fire fix is only the first step toward a forest fix.
- As the 2018 fires season unfolds, it is easy to forecast another destructive fire season and $5 billion will be expended by federal, state and local sources to suppress wildfires across the country.
- Funding for forest management actions, including targeted hazardous fuels treatment, is woefully inadequate. In fact, at the current funding level, forest health will continue to decline and the impacts of wildfires on the land and people’s lives will only get worse. A budget increase in the range of +$1.3 to +$2.2 billion is required. Eventually, this amount can be reduced as aggressive forest management enables fire management to take place and fire suppression costs begin to decline.
United States taxpayers are losing $70 to $350 billion a year in wildfire-related damages to infrastructure, public health, and natural resources. Wildfires are a major cause of losses to the forest-products industry and rural communities, especially, are at peril. Fuel accumulations have enhanced high-intensity wildland ﬁres. There are more than a billion “burnable” acres across America and an estimated 120 million people in more than 46 million homes are at risk due to wildfire; 72,000 communities are directly in harm’s way. Thousands of heroic firefighters have died protecting people and property. How many more reasons does it take before we can begin to improve America’s forests so fire can be used as a conservation tool and no longer feared for their destruction. We need your Administration to act. Clearly, now is the time. Positive impacts will be immediate.
Michael T. Rains
Appendix A.1. A Proposed Executive Order: A Comprehensive Strategy to Ensure Healthy, Sustainable and More Resilient Forests
Donald J. Trump XLV President of the United States: 2018 - present Executive Order XXXX – A Comprehensive Strategy to Ensure Healthy, Sustainable and More Resilient Forests
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Findings. The United States, especially its rural communities, depends on the productivity, health and sustainability of forestlands as a primary economic driver of local economies. These lands cover about 885 million acres across America. Many of these forestlands are highly concentrated in the western half of our nation where public lands compose a preponderance of the county taxable land base. Public lands provide the interface for many rural and urban communities designated and published by federal and state agencies as “Communities at Risk” from wildfire. In the last twenty years, especially, America’s forestlands have come under attack by fire and disease. About one-half of all forestlands, about 400 million acres, require some type of restorative action. The public and private forestlands across our country were designated to offer a wide-range of ecological and commercial goods and services for a growing America, including but not limited to clear air and water; timber and associated wood products; wildlife habitat; tourism; recreation; flood control; carbon storage; and, through proactive management receipts that provide financial support for federal lands that cannot be taxed for local government services. The harvesting of trees for wood products on both public and private lands must be at a much higher level than current to ensure forested ecosystems are healthy, sustainable and more resilient to disturbances. A broad range of forest stand ages maintained across landscapes enhance landscape biodiversity critical to wildlife species survival and is fundamental to community stability and economic prosperity, especially in rural areas. Aggressive forest management improves wildland fire management containment strategies, thereby reducing catastrophic fires and protecting lives, clean water, clean air, wildlife, recreation and adjacent private property. Infrastructure investments that promote expansion of cost-effective market-based solutions for a wide-range of biomass uses that include traditional forest products, new innovations in wood-based nanotechnology and building construction using advanced composites are key to ensuring America’s forests continue to be well-managed in balance with environmental, social and economic concerns, now and for the future.
Section 2. Wildfire Paradox. In part, because our country does not have a cohesive and comprehensive forest management strategy, a “wildfire paradox” has surfaced. That is, decades-long aggressive fire suppression, effective 95-98 percent of the time, can lead to future wildfires with higher severities and without adequate reforestation, convert forests to brush fields where vegetation now drives shorter return intervals with higher severity fire events. Rapidly spreading brush fires laden with heavy downed log debris untreated from recent fire events cause future fires to be even larger and more difficult to control, a much higher public safety risk to local communities and the public at large due to repeated hazardous smoke exposure. From a long-term perspective, the USDA Forest Service and others engaged in wildland fire suppression are working at cross purposes. Without an aggressive forest management strategy, we are trapped in a reactive fire suppression campaign that is endless and cannot be sustained financially. More money and more resources thrown at each fire event will never keep pace with the vegetative fuel growth on our public lands. Investing strategically through active forest management, while using those funds generated from accomplishing that work, is both effective and a logical business practice proven to limit and control the spread of fires prior to ignition. A national, cohesive and comprehensive forest management strategy will reduce the increasing hazardous fuel loading on fire prone public and private landscapes throughout America. The reduction of hazardous fuel is accomplished by an aggressive forest management strategy of increased timber and other forest product harvesting, salvage logging after a wildfire, and extensive application of pre-approved and planned prescribed fire. These measures will create restored landscapes that are resilient to wildfires and protect fire adapted communities within the expanding wildland-urban interface. Additional forest management funding will be required until fire suppression costs can be significantly reduced, and overall funds can be redirected in a more balanced, land conservation strategy. In the short-term, some of the new investments to support accelerated forest management programs will be offset by the revenues generated through the goods and services provided by the improved utilization of natural resources. Even in the short-term, an aggressive forest management strategy will reduce the costs to control wildland fire and the restoration of related damages. To be clear, the current practices in wildland fire, influenced at times by conflicting laws, congressional intent, and even executive direction, have led to an untenable and unstable situation. Change must happen. The “status quo” cannot succeed as it continues to deforest our nations forests at unprecedented rates.
Sec. 3. Overall Vision. To effectively develop a cohesive management strategy for America’s forests, a long-term vision must be crafted. The current policies on our Nation’s forests were crafted in the 1960-70’s. To put that into perspective, the science of Forest Ecology taught in our most prestigious universities today did not exist at that time. Our laws are antiquated and are driving the demise of America’s forestlands. With a clear, contemporary vision that will address the management, protection and wise use of America’s natural resources, we envision a very different narrative for effective land stewardship in order to help meet the natural resources conservation demands, now and ahead. Specifically, we envision:
a) Forest Resources. Forest resources that are utilized at a sustainable level to enable economic prosperity. This level of management is well within the growth potential of the land while accommodating historic levels of “natural disturbance” that once drove effective rejuvenation processes. The well-intended policies found in Endangered Species Act (ESA) Habitat Retention, minor Sediment Disturbance requirements of the Clean Water Act, Prescribed Fire smoke restrictions, as examples, are not respectful of the dynamic forested ecosystem as they temporarily attempt to hold nature static in time. This method of management may meet the current policy and law but when nature exerts an overwhelming need to rebalance the system, the results of wide spread disease and catastrophic fire effects are uncharacteristically outside the normal range of ecosystem functions due to man’s short-term intervention. The harvesting of trees for wood products coupled with fuel reduction for prescribed fire on both public and private lands must become much closer to mimicking the natural processes to ensure forested ecosystems are healthy, sustainable and more resilient to disturbances. A broad range of forest stand ages, ecologically known as “seral stages”, must be maintained across landscapes to enhance biodiversity, increase multiple uses and their benefits, especially the strengthening of rural economies. Aggressive forest management, including the targeted removal of hazardous fuels, is the most effective way to modify large fire behavior and return fire to its natural role on the land. The desired future condition is met by reducing the number, duration and size of catastrophic fires, and burned forests are returned to productivity by quickly salvaging usable wood products, closely followed by reforestation. Proactive forest management using this technique produces sustainable products and enable innovative, cost-effective market-based solutions from these well-managed forests.
b) Partnerships. Local governments, public agencies and private natural resource management organizations alongside proactive conservation groups, are the basis of a strong coalition for contemporary land stewardship. This partnership is included in all local land management planning efforts, leading to increased resource utilization by, avoiding duplication and achieving greater efficiency. Communities have a stronger involvement in natural resources management efforts and are committed to success.
c) Recreation. Recreation on forestlands is a key to helping improve people’s lives and their communities. People view our forests as a place to enjoy and recoup. The quality of trails, lakes and complete landscapes are a basis of national pride. Others closely observe the quality of conservation that is given to the lands and are guided by America’s level of excellence and public acceptance. Funding from all sources in increased due to the support and enhanced value of recreation areas. Reducing the loss of forested cover now driven by fire with its associated smoke and tree mortality due to disease will do more to protect recreation values than the impacts of the public’s exposure to occasional forest management activity.
d) Research and Technology Development. Research, and the sharing of leading-edge technologies, increases the value and profitability of both public and private lands. Readily used applications are developed in partnership with a wide-range of users and science-based organizations. Priority discovery is given to actions that will directly benefit the environment, multiple use conservation and the profitability of the end users and all science is in concert with the agency missions. New innovations in biomass uses, such as the expanded use of cellulose nanomaterials and advanced wood-composites for construction materials help achieve full biomass utilization and accelerated economic expansion in a wide-range of products and services throughout the country.
e) Water. Clean water and adequate supply are once again available to all users due to excellent and aggressive stewardship of our Nation’s lands. Managing our landscapes for increased snow retention and groundwater recharge is critical to provide the necessary water for our growing populations and fisheries in the west. Water-based recreation is both profitable to land managers and is used at a level never before attained. The innovative management of our forests allows for clean water that is available to meet the priority demands for a growing America.
f) Wildlife. Our Nation’s forests and grasslands are healthy, sustainable and provide abundant, high quality habitat for wildlife. Wildlife diversity is expanded and sustained. Through the use of modern Geographical Information System mapping tools, these dynamic ecosystems can be managed for all habitats in sufficient quantities and quality to protect and enhance all species including those listed under the ESA. Due to sound planning and a high-level of local involvement, a consensus is achieved in determining the balance of services provided by the lands across all ownerships.
g) Rural Communities. Increased employment in rural areas is significantly improved due to better resource management. Twenty-five percent tax receipts, now at record low levels, are increased so local jurisdictions are better able to provide basic services for their citizens and our children. These include safe roads and schools as two primary immediate recipients. Personal income is up and stagnated economies dependent on government subsidies finally begin to recover. Advice and leadership from a wide-range of state and local partners is valued and sought. Local resource users positively comment on the high quality of services provided by government entities, pointing to a wide-range of land condition enhancements. Funding is effectively used to maximize the outputs of planned forest management projects.
h) Fire. Aggressive forest management becomes the critical link to effective fire management. Increased timber harvesting, including increased removals of hazardous fuel, along with new innovations in biomass uses and fire control technology will enable wildland fire to become an effective land restoration tool. Well-planned prescribed fires are conducted by skilled fire managers and the cooperation and coordination between all federal, state, local personnel involved is always cohesive and the basis of success.
Sec. 4. Definition (s). (a) “Stewardship” is the management, protection and wise use of natural resources, including all forestlands along a complex rural to urban land gradient. (b) “Biomass Uses” from hazardous fuels – for example, wood-based nanotechnology; Green Building Construction, including advanced composites; and, wood for energy — offer pragmatic market-based solutions to help our forests become more resilient. It is estimated that a strong, well-established program in cost-effective biomass uses will create high-value markets from low-value wood (i.e., hazardous fuels) to reasonably help restore up to 19 million forested-acres annually (7-8 million acres annually on the National Forests) and reduce future fire suppression costs in the range of 12-15 percent (some suggest as high as 23 percent). Expanded “biomass uses” shall be part of the forest management strategy. (c) “Decades-long aggressive fire suppression” is a way of dealing with an overwhelming force of nature, like wildfire, and constitutes the use of all possible assets (i.e., firefighters, aircraft, ground equipment) to deal with the fire. Experience shows, however, that escalating short-term operational opposition to wildfires which endanger societal values has contributed to wildfire becoming more damaging to societal values (i.e., the “wildfire paradox”).
Sec. 5. Policy. It shall be the policy of the Federal Government to improve the management of America’s forest through its direct role on public lands as well as its indirect role in providing technical assistance on non-federal lands. The United States will further this policy for the benefit of the American people and in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, by:
i. Corporate Deployment of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.Effective fire management also includes a much more corporate deployment of the existing National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (NCWFMS), a very effective program direction that includes “restoring and maintaining resilient landscapes” as a core principle. However, the NCWFMS is not yet mainstream. It shall become so, as directed by this Executive Order.
(a) Convening a “Commission on the Stewardship of America’s Forests.” This Commission will be co-led by the Secretaries of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Interior (DOI). The makeup of the Commission will be at the discretion of both Secretaries, but shall include at least the Chief, USDA Forest Service; Director, Bureau of Land Management; Director, National Park Service; and, President, National Association of State Foresters. The Commission will fully utilize the collective insight and innovation of a wide range of partners so trees, forests and forest ecosystems across all landscapes can become healthy, sustainable and more resilient to disturbances such as insects and diseases and wildfire.
(b) Institute a Long-Term Campaign of “Aggressive Forest Management Improves Fire Management (Statement of Intent).” Immediately direct the establishment of a USDA-DOI led campaign that acknowledges that aggressive forest management improves fire management and reduces high intensity, catastrophic wildfire. This will include implementing an aggressive fire management program that allows more of the right kind of fire at the right time at the right place, using both prescribed and wildfire. United States taxpayers are losing $70 to $350 billion a year in wildfire related damages to infrastructure, public health and natural resources. Wildfires are a major cause of losses to the forest products industry. Cost-effective fire management can only be accomplished with a concurrent and equally aggressive forest management strategy that includes well-planned vegetation removals, including at least the doubling of the current timber harvest program on public lands.
(c) Hazardous Fuels Reduction. In the late 1990’s, the General Accounting Office (GAO) concluded that “the most extensive and serious problem related to the health of forests in the interior West is the over-accumulation of vegetation, which has caused an increasing number of large, intense, uncontrollable, and catastrophically destructive wildfires.” In developing the “Managing the Impacts of Wildfires on Communities and the Environment” — the National Fire Plan -- in 2001, about $850 million annually was thought to be required to more effectively address the issue of hazardous fuels removal. More recently in 2013, the GAO concluded it would take about $69 billion over a 16-year period — $4.3 billion each year. Relying on taxpayer dollars, the Forest Service has managed an average of about $300 million annually for hazardous fuels treatment. Thus, with only a fraction of required funds available, focusing work only on the highest priority areas is fundamental to success. Accordingly, we must implement a much more targeted approach to hazardous fuels reduction program on the highest priority areas. This must include the expanded use of innovative biomass uses such as cellulose nanomaterials and advanced wood-composites for construction materials by creating high-value markets from lower-value wood. Expanded biomass uses – by creating high-value, high-volume markets – create cost-effective ways to enable enough hazardous fuels to be removed from America’s forests so wildfires remain smaller and begin again to be a tool for improved forest health as opposed to destructive behemoths that destroy lives, communities and landscapes. Again, this will eventually reduce fire suppression costs by at least 12-15 percent (some suggest as high as 23 percent).
Sec. 6. Implementation.
a) Statement of Intent. Within 5 days after this Executive Order (EO) is signed, the Secretaries will direct the establishment of a USDA-DOI led campaign that acknowledges that “Aggressive Forest Management Improves Fire Management.” This will be a clear Statement of Intent (SOI) to all employees in both Departments, and the publics they serve, that forest management will become a foundational element of effective fire management. All regulatory agencies within the federal government participating in NEPA processes will aid the resilience of our Nation’s forests through implementation of consultation policies that mandate the no action alternative of each NEPA decision be fully weighed with regard of the overwhelming likelihood of continued loss of forested cover. Recognition will be acknowledged that current static point in time analysis policies driven by short term effects determination statements continue to put our Nation’s forests and the wildlife and fish habitats they were designed to protect at great risk. The campaign associated with this SOI will include specific provisions for a new, expanded program direction enable adequate protection of lives and property from wildfire and the creation of healthy, sustainable forests that will become more resilient to disturbances.
i. Corporate Deployment of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. Within 10 days after this EO is signed, the Secretaries of the USDA and DOI will publish a plan that enables a more corporate deployment of this strategy.
b) Timber Harvest Levels and Hazardous Fuel Removals. Within 25 days from the date that this EO is signed, the Secretaries of the USDA and DOI will develop two documents:
i. Timber Harvest Levels. This document will include an estimate of the timber harvest levels that can be sustainably harvested from public lands from 2018-2025. The estimates, in billion board feet, will be broken down by DOI (BLM) and USDA (National Forests) administered lands. The document will include estimated costs for the new timber harvest levels (as compared to the current levels).
ii. Hazardous Fuel Reduction. This document will include an estimate of the hazardous fuels reduction levels that can be removed assuming adequate markets and innovations (i.e., wood-based nanotechnology) are in place. The document will include high, medium and low priority removal areas and associated costs. Costs associated with expanded markets and new innovations shall also be illustrated. Information will be illustrated as in item i, above, by both USDA and DOI administered lands.
c) Convene a Commission. Within 30 days from the date that this Executive Order (EO) is signed, the Secretaries of the USDA and DOI will convene a “Commission on the Stewardship of America’s Forests.” The final report will be provided to the President within 120 days after this EO is signed. The outline of the report will be determined by the Commission, under the overall leadership of the USDA and DOI Secretaries.
Sec. 7. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof;
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals; or
(iii) existing treaties or international agreements relating to mineral production, imports, or exports.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.