Interior Secretary calls for active forest management

By Laura Bies

A new Interior policy calls for more focus on preventing wildfires. ©USFWS Pacific Region

On former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s last day in office, he signed a secretarial order calling for the department to do more to prevent wildfire on its lands.

Coming in response to an executive order by the president on active forest management, the secretarial order, Reducing Wildfire Risks on Department of the Interior Land Through Active Management, calls for best management practices for wildfire to be included in all of the department’s land and resource management plans. It also requires that the plans use land and vegetation management techniques supported by the best available science. The order was just made publicly available last week.

“The serious health risks, safety concerns, tragic loss of life, and economic losses resulting from catastrophic wildfire demonstrate the need for increased attention to active forestland, rangeland, watershed and wildfire management policies and techniques that reduce irreparable harm to landscapes and the citizens who live and work in neighboring communities,” the order says.

It calls for increased logging in national parks, specifically salvage logging where forests have been affected by wildfires, insect infestation and disease in recent years. It also encourages the use of categorical exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act to allow quicker action, especially in areas where more intensive forest management is deemed warranted.

The order also calls for the formation of a new departmental team, made up of experts from each bureau, which will lead planning efforts and coordinate a review of vegetation management actions across landscape scales. In additional, it establishes a new advisory board to advise the secretary on implementing both this secretarial order and the recent executive order on active forest management.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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