House Republicans push to deregulate the U.S. Forest Service

House Republicans next week will consider legislation aimed at eliminating red tape at the U.S. Forest Service so it can fight wildfires and other natural disasters more efficiently and with fewer regulatory delays.

According to a House aide, the bill is meant to make it easier for the Forest Service to take steps such as removing dead trees after a fire and other efforts to reduce the risk of new fires, without first having to undertake "lengthy and costly planning processes." Those requirements have made the agency "overly cautious," the aide said.

The Resilient Federal Forests Act, from Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., would exclude the agency from some of these more routine requirements so it can focus on its job. A blog post on Westerman's website said the bill "aims to undo the ties that bind the U.S. Forest Service and prevent catastrophic wildfires that have ravaged western states during the last two decades."

Arkansas State Forester Joe Fox wrote to Westerman in support of the bill. "The USFS (United States Forest Service) works hard to deliver critically needed management on NFS lands, but they are hampered by cumbersome regulations, administrative costs, declining budgets, and the increasingly common practice of 'fire borrowing,'" Fox said.