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Lummis introduces bill to expand review exemptions for wildfire management plans

(Courtesy of Cynthia Lummis, Facebook)

CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming’s junior U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis has introduced a bill that she says will relieve administrative burdens on federal forest managers seeking to mitigate wildfire risk, according to a release Monday from the senator’s office.

The bill and its identical companion in the House would expand “categorical exclusions” (CEs) contained in the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which require federal agencies to assess the environmental consequences of their proposed actions and to include the public in their decision-making processes. 

Categorical exclusions are federal actions that “do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment” and are exempt from this process. 

Under the bill, CEs are expanded to include:

  • The removal of noxious weeds
  • Hazardous fuel management
  • Creating fuel/fire breaks
  • Allowing fencing to improve wildlife habitat
  • Erosion control devices
  • The creation of permanent infrastructure, such as stock ponds. 

The bill also increases acreage caps for CE’s to 10,000 acres “in order to allow these forest management activities to be utilized on a greater scale.”

“For too long, litigious radical groups have hindered efforts to maintain and preserve our national forests under the guise of environmentalism,” Lummis said in the release.

“This bill would cut some of the red tape that these groups exploit to ensure that Wyoming’s and the nation’s forest managers have the resources and flexibility needed to actively manage forests and prevent wildfires.”

Environmental groups were the most common litigants in NEPA-Forest Service cases and timber harvesting, management plans in the first 30 years of the policy. However, a 2020 study published in Environmental Law  concluded that “the NEPA litigation burden may be overstated because few decisions are challenged in court, the rate of challenges is declining, and environmental plaintiffs are likely to bring only cases where they have a high likelihood of success.”

The short title of Lummis’ bill is the Stop CATASTROPHIES Act, short for the Stop Causing Alarming Tree, Air, and Soil Trauma Resulting from Obstructive Progressives’ and Hypocritical Environmentalists’ Schemes Act.