On Earth Day, President Joe Biden announced executive action to “strengthen America’s forests, boost wildfire resilience, and combat global deforestation.”
A corresponding White House Fact Sheet lists their priorities as follows: reducing wildlife risk, strengthening forests for local economics, combating global deforestation, and employing nature to combat climate change.
The executive order claims it’ll “pursue science-based, sustainable forest and land management” and “support collaborative, locally led conservation solutions.”
To this end, the U.S. Forest Service has a “10-year strategy to reduce wildfire risk through science-based fuels and forest health treatments, with a goal of treating an additional 50 million acres across federal and non-federal lands.”
But it’s reasonable to lack some confidence in the USFS plans as currently, USFS reports a backlog of 80 million acres needing restoration. It added 63 million acres are highly vulnerable to “high or very high risk of wildfire.”
Indeed, ten years is too long to address this pressing need. And worse, the Biden administration undid the 2020 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rule change that adopted a Prescribed Fire Guidance to encourage active forest management by narrowing down the “definition of “major federation action” to better manage forests and expand on “categorical exclusions” to discourage redundant efforts.”
Rather, it did away with the 2020 rule and, instead, added greenhouse gas emissions and climate change considerations for new reviews—making management efforts out of reach in a timely fashion.
As I noted in this September 2021 Daily Caller column, the Biden administration talks a great rhetorical game but follows through with little action to mitigate problems. Live fuel, not climate change, is the primary cause of high-intensity wildfires:
A recent IOP Science study of key drivers behind fires determined that live fuel contributes the most to fires (53%) — followed by weather (23%) and climate change (14%). Even in California, top forest scientists point to massive accumulation of wood fuel, not climate change, as the underlying factor behind intense events.
Overall, the plan offers few viable solutions on mitigating wildlife risk. Instead, it should offer a solution like a prescribed burn regime that entails reforming the Clean Air Act to rework how it regulates wildfire smoke versus control burn smoke.
If the Biden administration wants to combat global deforestation efforts, they should also support reforms like the Resilient Federal Forests Act and No Timber From Tyrants Act. The former would facilitate proactive forest management, while the latter would cut dependence on wood imports from Russia and Belarus by encouraging the sustainable harvesting of American timber on federal public lands.
To learn more about proactive forest management, read my IWF policy focus on true conservation HERE.