Increased logging and fuels reduction prescribed in executive order
could reduce wildfire but increase disturbance in big game habitat, fisheries
WASHINGTON – Millions of acres of public lands big game habitat and fisheries overseen by the Interior and Agriculture departments will be subject to vaguely defined management practices intended to minimize wildfire under an executive order issued by President Trump.
Timber thinning, prescribed burns and other active management practices that reduce fuel loads and address invasive species all contribute to healthy forest systems. While these active management practices can lower the risk of destructive wildfires, loosely defined parameters and new reviews of existing conservation designations could create disturbances and invite hasty polices that negatively impact big game populations, harm fisheries and diminish hunting and fishing.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers thanked the president for prioritizing forest management but urged administration officials to consider the needs of fish, wildlife and public lands users as this new management approach is pursued.
“As wildfires increase in size and intensity, so does the need for specific, hands-on strategies to manage them,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “Strong, science-based management practices tailored to individual landscapes are critical to avoid compromising important fish and wildlife habitat and water resources. Habitat disturbances in the name of wildfire management could negatively impact fish and game, public lands users including hunters and anglers, and local communities that rely on a robust outdoors-dependent economy.
“As currently framed, the language in the president’s order is vague and leaves open the potential to jeopardize valuable habitat and land conservation designations with broad-brush timber management practices, increased disturbances via road construction, and new categorical exclusions to bedrock conservation laws like NEPA,” Tawney stated. “Public lands sportsmen and women understand the need to manage wildfires; however we draw the line at approaches that could do so at the expense of our shared natural resources and outdoor opportunities. We need a balanced approach that manages young successional and old-growth forests.”
Under the president’s order, 750,000 acres of Interior lands and 3.5 million acres of Forest Service lands would be subject to increased timber management to reduce fuel loads. In addition, 500,000 acres of Interior lands and 2.2 million acres of Forest Service lands would be the focus of activities to address flooding. Interior and USDA fiscal year 2019 budgets will be reviewed to integrate these and a range of other revised management practices.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the voice
for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.