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 CantwellDemocratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Trump nominee for Consumer Product Safety Commission involved in CDC guidance shelving: AP Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections MORE (D-Wash.), Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischHillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting Senate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal MORE (R-Idaho), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Senate Dems pump brakes on new stimulus checks | Trump officials sued over tax refunds | Fed to soon open small-business lending program Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Voting rights, public health officials roll out guidelines to protect voters from COVID-19 MORE (D-Ore.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoOn The Money: US tops 100,000 coronavirus deaths with no end in sight | How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response | Tenants fear mass evictions GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response MORE (R-Idaho) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayCOVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Lack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen Democratic leaders say Trump testing strategy is 'to deny the truth' about lack of supplies 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.