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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 CantwellHillicon Valley: Facebook deletes accounts for political 'spam' | Leaked research shows Google's struggles with online free speech | Trump's praise for North Korea complicates cyber deterrence | Senators want Google memo on privacy bug Congress moves to ensure the greater availability of explosives detecting dogs in the US Overnight Energy — Presented by Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance — Trump ends law enforcement program at wildlife refuges | Pruitt canceled trips he already had tickets for | Senate panel approves new parks fund MORE (D-Wash.), Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischMcCain’s death marks decline of Trump’s GOP Senate critics Overnight Health Care: Senate approves massive bill including health spending | Bill includes drug pricing measure | Move to block Planned Parenthood funding fails Overnight Defense: Senate passes massive defense, domestic spending bill | Duncan Hunter to step down from committees | Pompeo names North Korea envoy MORE (R-Idaho), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenRepublicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel US to open trade talks with Japan, EU, UK Poll: Dem incumbent holds 5-point lead in Oregon governor's race MORE (D-Ore.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoLawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters Republicans shift course after outside counsel falters MORE (R-Idaho) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter Wilkie vows no 'inappropriate influence' at VA Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers 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.