Pay hike of up to 50 percent for fighting wildfires
In a long-expected step, the White House announced hefty increases in pay for wildland firefighters on Tuesday, amounting to an additional $600 million over two years, to confront increasingly destructive fires. The Forest Service has acknowledged difficulty in hiring enough firefighters this year; some state and local agencies offer much higher pay.
New wildfire strategy targets ‘firesheds’ near towns
Responding to a "wildfire crisis" in the West, the Biden administration will double or even triple its efforts to thin forests and prevent fires that would threaten communities, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday. The 10-year plan will focus on large, high-risk "firesheds" in places such as the Pacific Northwest, the Sierra Nevada in California, the Front Range of Colorado and the Southwest.
Biden administration moves to block copper mine near Boundary Waters
The Biden administration took the first step to quash a proposed copper mine near the popular Boundary Waters wilderness area in northeastern Minnesota on Wednesday with an inter-agency request to block mineral leases in the area for 20 years. It was a change in course from the Trump era, when the government smiled on the proposed Twin Metals mine.
‘State of emergency’ in drought-hit U.S. forests
The government needs to quicken the pace of its fuel reduction work in public forests at the same time that it marshals enough crews to fight wildfires, said Forest Service chief Randy Moore at a House hearing on Wednesday. "The sobering takeaway: America's forests are in a state of emergency, and it's time to treat them like one."
Wildfires and workplace are top priorities for Biden nominee to oversee U.S. forests
President Biden's nominee to oversee the 193 million-acre national forest system said on Thursday that he would focus on wildfire management and prevention and on eradicating racial and sexual discrimination at the Forest Service. "If confirmed, I will be the person responsible for providing leadership to ensure that everyone is treated fairly," said Homer Wilkes, a 41-year USDA employee.
Moore will be first Black chief of the Forest Service
Randy Moore, a career USDA employee who now oversees 20 million acres of national forests in California, will be the first Black chief of the U.S. Forest Service in its 116-year history, announced Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday.
Rethinking wildfires at the start of a potentially devastating fire season
California experienced more wildfire last year than any previous year on record, but the severe drought currently strangling nearly three-quarters of the American West threatens to make the 2021 fire season even worse. And while many state and federal agencies are taking extraordinary measures to prevent the further loss of life and property – including prescribed burns, thinning and the deployment of the largest firefighting force in California’s history – some question the efficacy of these increasingly costly measures. (No paywall)
Perdue wants more goods and services from U.S. forests
Citing recent increases in timber sales from the national forests, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told the Forest Service to "identify new opportunities to increase America's energy dominance and reduce reliance on foreign countries for critical minerals." In a memo to the Forest Service chief, Perdue also said livestock grazing should be regarded as an essential part of management of the grasslands that are part of the 193-million-acre National Forest System.
USDA proposes change in rules for greater sage-grouse
The USDA intends by this fall to put in place a revised land management plan for the greater sage-grouse, once a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Forest Service to scale back environmental reviews
In the name of greater efficiency, the U.S. Forest Service said on Wednesday that it would modernize its procedures for complying with the National Environmental Policy Act, the bedrock federal environmental protection law.
On Capitol Hill, tentative agreement for a ‘status quo’ farm bill
With congressional leaders calling the shots on forestry language, and with an incendiary Republican proposal for strict SNAP work requirements apparently off the table, negotiators reached a tentative agreement Wednesday on a farm bill that is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
Fighting fires, or shifting public lands from federal control?
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, in a press briefing Tuesday on California’s raging forest fires, called for more management of federal forest lands to be shifted to local authorities, arguing that this would help prevent fires.
Costly fire year greets new head of the Forest Service
Forest Service chief Vicki Christiansen, who took office on Thursday after six months as interim chief, said the USDA agency would spend $2.6 billion on fire suppression “for this historic fire season,” roughly the same as in 2017.
Christiansen moves from interim to permanent Forest Service chief
After six months as the agency’s interim leader, Vicki Christiansen will take the oath of office today as chief of the U.S. Forest Service, one of the USDA’s largest agencies.
Senate confirms USDA and CFTC nominees
On Tuesday, the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee announced that three of President Trump’s nominees have received Senate approval to begin work at the USDA and the CFTC.
Senate ag panel set to vote on CFTC and USDA nominees
Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee are scheduled to vote Tuesday on two Trump administration nominees, Dan Berkovitz to be a CFTC commissioner and James Hubbard to be agriculture undersecretary for natural resources.
‘Harassment has no place’ in the Forest Service, says USDA nominee
Lifelong forester James Hubbard told senators on Tuesday that if he is confirmed as agriculture undersecretary for natural resources, he will personally combat sexual harassment in the 32,000-member Forest Service.
For forest fires, a ‘new normal’
After a record-setting fire season in 2017, this year “is showing all signs of another historic year,” said interim Forest Service chief Vicki Christiansen on Thursday. “I will say above normal is our new normal.”
Trump taps former Forest Service deputy to run USDA natural resources arm
James Hubbard, who retired as deputy chief of the Forest Service in 2017, is President Trump's choice to become agriculture undersecretary for natural resources, announced the White House. His primary job will be oversight of the Forest Service, with its 154 national forests and 20 grasslands on 193 million acres in 43 states and Puerto Rico.