Senators introduce bipartisan bill to combat wildfires

Senators introduce bipartisan bill to combat wildfires
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A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Thursday to address severe wildfires in the West.

The legislation establishes a strategy for combating future wildfires like those that have burned millions of acres of forest so far this year.

The bill provides $100 million to help at-risk communities prepare for wildfires and requires firefighting agencies to use unspent suppression funds for preparedness activities ahead of future wildfire seasons.

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It also establishes a pilot program for the U.S. Forest Service and the Interior Department in which the agencies would “treat” the top 1 percent most at-risk and least-controversial forest lands for future fires. That means removing excess trees, wood and shrubs that generally serve as fuel for wildfires.

Five senators from Western states introduced the bill: Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellPoll: Majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Protests and anger: Washington in turmoil as elections near Dem senator says Supreme Court vote could be 'career ending' for lawmakers MORE (D-Wash.), Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs GOP lawmaker presses Bolton to examine Obama administration's response to Russian cyberattacks MORE (R-Idaho), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Dems protest vote on controversial court pick On The Money: Fed chief lays out risks of trade war | Senate floats new Russia sanctions amid Trump backlash | House passes bill to boost business investment Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback MORE (D-Ore.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoDems call for hearings on Trump’s CFPB nominee to be put on hold Midterms will show voters are tired of taking back seat to Wall Street GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE MORE (R-Idaho) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families MORE (D-Wash.).

“It's time to create new tools to reduce fire risk and help better protect our communities‎,” Cantwell said in a statement.

“By targeting our most vulnerable pine forests, this science-based pilot program gives the Forest Service tools to address wildfire in our most vulnerable forests and prioritizes cross-laminated timber.”

This year has been an especially busy one for wildfires. According to government statistics, more than 50,000 fires have burned nearly 8.8 million acres so far this year, the most since 2015 and well above the 10-year average of 6 million acres.

The House last week approved a disaster relief package that includes $576.5 million for wildfire recovery efforts.