Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, introduced the Protecting and Restoring Our Trees by Enhancing Conservation and Treatments (PROTECT) Act on Tuesday.
The bill intends to help improve forest management by allowing for more flexibility for federal land managers to utilize active forest management methods, like prescribed burns, to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
“Decades of forest mismanagement have left our federal forests to become overstocked tinderboxes waiting to burn and have resulted in the recent increase in catastrophic wildfires in California and across the West,” Garcia said in a prepared statement.
Garcia’s bill would remove burdensome regulations to allow for active forest management, which is primarily through brush clearing and prescribed burns. Additionally, a recent Stanford study found that utilizing prescribed burns to reduce forest fuels could better protect communities from deadly wildfires.
The PROTECT Act would authorize a 10,000-acre categorical exclusion to address insects and disease, reduce hazardous fuels loads, protect municipal water sources and increase water yield, improve critical habitat and facilitate native species restoration, and remove dead or dying trees. The legislation would incentivize collaboration by allowing categorical exclusions of up to 30,000 acres for collaborative projects.