President Donald Trump moved forward with policies aimed at preventing catastrophic wildfires while the media breathlessly covered the government funding battle.
The order also calls on federal officials to streamline regulations and permitting processes to allow the harvest of at least 3.8 billion board feet from U.S. Forest Service lands and 600 million board feet from Bureau of Land Management lands.
Trump also asked federal officials to do more to maintain roads into hard-to-reach areas where fires can spread.
Western Republicans welcomed Trump’s order. GOP lawmakers said that a change in policies was sorely needed after the devastating 2018 wildfire season, which saw more than 8.5 million acres burned.
“While litigation activists thwarted forest management reforms, the Senate also failed to pass legislation to help minimize forest fires,” Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said in a statement.
“As a result, parts of the West were left in ashes. We cannot ignore these systemic issues any longer."
Environmentalists railed against Trump’s executive order, characterizing it as a “gift” to the logging industry that would do little to prevent wildfires.
“Logging in the back country is just a gift to the timber industry,” said Boggs, adding the order didn’t mention global warming or thinning around communities in wildfire-prone areas.
Democrats and environmentalists tend to blame global warming for the increasingly massive western wildfires. Republicans, however, argue that more active management of forests through thinning, clearing of dead and dying trees, and logging is needed to prevent wildfires from getting out of control.
“This executive order will save lives and communities throughout the West!” the Congressional Western Caucus wrote in a Dec. 21 tweet.
“However, this issue will only be fixed through congressional action,” Bishop said.
“The House and Senate must work to implement statutes that protect our environment and the many communities across the country who live every day with the threat of wildfire."