Senate lands bill holds promise for working forests, wildland firefighters

State foresters have announced their full support for two important provisions in the Senate’s land conservation bill: one that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and another that would modernize wildfire technology.

WASHINGTON—Earlier this month, the Senate passed (92 to 8) a sweeping public lands conservation bill that would encourage the use of modern technology for wildland firefighting and permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a program responsible for preserving valuable landscapes in every state and nearly every county in the United States.

The LWCF uses offshore oil and gas royalties paid by energy companies to protect local, state, and national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges from development. Part of its work is accomplished through the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy program, which provides LWCF matching funds to state forestry agencies to purchase easements on working forestlands. By keeping forests working, the Forest Legacy program helps to support local economies, wildlife habitat, and critical drinking water supplies.

The Senate bill’s Wildfire Technology Modernization provision would ensure wildland firefighters at the local, state, and national levels have state-of-the-art equipment to prevent, detect, and suppress wildfires more quickly and safely. For state wildland firefighters and managers specifically—the men and women who respond first to 80 percent of the wildfires that start across the United States regardless of land ownership each year—this provision promises to equip them with the tools they need to better fight wildfires in coordination with federal land management agencies, while minimizing suppression costs and risk exposure.

“Greater access to modern technology—such as firefighter tracking devices, enhanced satellite mapping, and unmanned aircraft systems—will improve our collective ability to monitor wildfires and make informed management decisions that best protect the public, wildland firefighters, and community property,” said Jay Farrell, NASF executive director. “Because of this technology provision, and the bill’s LWCF provision, we strongly recommend that the House pass this legislation. Doing so would benefit both working forests and wildland fire management across the country.”

Media Contact: Whitney Forman-Cook at wforman-cook@stateforesters.org or 202-624-5417