Forest Restoration Bill Pits Arizona Democrats Against Conservationists

By Will Stone
Published: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 10:21am
Updated: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 - 10:24am
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(Photo by Jimmy Jenkins - KJZZ)
Tonto National Forest encompasses terrain at high elevations ideal for pine trees.

How do we stop wildfires?

According to Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Flagstaff, the answer is ramp up logging and cut the bureaucracy that slows down forest restoration.

“It’s just a common sense approach,” said Kirkpatrick, who recently joined Arizona Republicans and Democratic U.S. Rep. Krysten Sinema in voting for the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015. Kirkpatrick said the legislation will address the “unhealthy, poorly managed” forests in the state.

“It will help promote healthier forests and it streamlines the regulatory process," Kirkpatrick said. "That will help protect the folks who live in our timber communities and live around our national forests."

But many in the conservation community, along with Democrats like U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Tucson, disagree. 

Randi Spivak of the Center for Biological Diversity said the bill bypasses the federal environmental review process for sections of forest that are only 5,000 acres and requires citizens to put up money before filing a lawsuit against a project.

"[The act] misleads the public to thinking that doing away with environmental laws, barring access to the courts, taking away safeguards for wildlife habitat and old growth is the way to proceed to make forests more resilient,” Spivak said.

The legislation now heads to the U.S. Senate. 

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