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Bentz introduces bill to let Forest Service use Environmental Policy Act exemptions

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) --Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.) on Thursday introduced the Commonsense Coordination Act. The bill allows the U.S. Forest Service to utilize the same exemptions from the National Environmental Policy Act as other federal agencies when working to implement joint projects that can range from wildfire preparedness and response to certain land management and infrastructure activities.

Bentz said in a news release that the bill would eliminate duplicative paperwork for potentially life- and property-saving federal projects that do not require an environmental assessment nor an environmental impact statement.

"For too long, bureaucratic red tape has inhibited responsible forest management, leading to uncontrollable wildfires such as Oregon’s Bootleg Fire. That’s why I have introduced the Commonsense Coordination Act - to improve the ability of USDA to coordinate with other federal land management agencies on forest management projects. It will enable the Forest Service to utilize another agency’s categorical exclusion (CE) when implementing joint projects. Additionally, it will permit agencies to utilize CEs belonging to other federal agencies for the purpose of similar projects. These changes will help expedite the process of getting projects approved to ensure that bureaucracy doesn’t continue to prevent actions which will save lives and property." - Congressman Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.)

“There’s a reason the phrase ‘it takes an act of Congress’ is synonymous with excessive delays. Bureaucracy and unnecessary red tape constantly delay projects across all areas of government, making it increasingly difficult for agencies to carry out essential tasks. Forest management is no exception. Even though wildfires decimate the American West annually, the U.S. Forest Service is still regularly stonewalled on critical forest management activities by outdated regulations and miscommunication. Congressman Bentz’s Commonsense Coordination Act would address this issue by allowing the Forest Service to utilize another agency’s categorical exclusion when implementing joint projects, thereby shortening the project turnaround timeline. This will allow land managers to finish critical work quickly and stay ahead of wildfires, without getting stuck in a review backlog. I’m grateful for Congressman Bentz’s leadership on this issue and look forward to moving the bill through the legislative process.” - House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.).

The bill is cosponsored by nine Members of Congress, including House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Western Caucus Chairman Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Minn.), Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-Calif.), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), and Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.).

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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