Jeff Flake - U.S. Senator ~ Arizona

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – United States Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and John McCain (R-AZ) today introduced the Stewardship Contracting Reauthorization and Improvement Act (S. 1300), which will extend federal agencies’ authority to enter into forest stewardship contracts that would help them reduce wildfire risks. The bill also includes improvements to the stewardship program that would help agencies treat larger areas of our forests. Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), James Risch (R-ID) and Dean Heller (R-NV) are cosponsors of the bill.

“We must use every resource at our disposal to prevent devastating wildfires. Long-term stewardship contracting and its resulting partnerships help restore Arizona’s forests, reduce the risk of out-of-control wildfires and protect rural communities. These success stories should be allowed to continue and this critical instrument should remain in the firefighting toolbox,” said Flake. “I urge the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to consider action on this bill as soon as possible.”

“Thinning our forests will reduce the fuel load for wildfires and make them more manageable for our firefighters,” said Senator John McCain. “This legislation extends the Forest Service’s authority to enter into forest stewardship contracts that use private timber companies to thin our forests and sell the harvested wood as compensation. The bill further streamlines Forest Service regulations and gives the agency more flexibility to execute the large-scale, long-term thinning projects that are so critical to the health of Arizona’s forests and the safety of our communities.”

S. 1300 will grant the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) flexibility when holding funds in reserve to cover the costs of cancelled contracts. Typically, the federal government must hold in reserve the full amount of the contract for the agreement’s duration, which can last up to 10 years.

This requirement can serve as an impediment to long-term contracts that are often used to reduce wildfire risks.