Forest Service resumes prescribed fire program, but some fear new rules will delay projects
As the Trump administration’s plan to reduce the use of prescribed burning of national forests and grasslands in the United States got underway, some environmental groups and lawmakers fear that new rules for the program have the potential to disrupt projects that rely more heavily on burning.
The Trump administration formally launched its plan, which is intended to reduce the number of acres burned nationwide by 1 million acres every year between now and 2030, on March 20, including a roll-out of the new rule setting new limits on when fire can be used to improve wildlife habitat. But in addition to the rule, the administration is releasing a report on the program and a proposal for a comprehensive set of land management recommendations to reduce the national land use that burns.
The new rules to reduce the use of prescribed burns have not yet been finalized, and the report on the Trump administration’s recommendation on which lands to manage and what types of burns should be allowed will be released next month, according to a government spokesperson.
But many in the environmental community are concerned about the potential new rules and report, and some believe that they could delay projects that now depend heavily on prescribed burns.
“So far, the new rules look like they’re really a small part of the overall effort to cut the number of acres that are burned every year,” said Tom O’Keefe, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Then there’s the whole report with recommendations. Many of these are going to be difficult to comply with and take a long time.”
Agency documents released on Monday, though, appear to indicate that the program is moving forward.
In a comment to the Federal Register, the U.S. Forest Service defended the rules and asked for comments that would support the new program. The agency said it expects to release the revised rules in mid-May.