USDA Forest Service Moves Forward with Implementation of LaMalfa’s Wildfire Avoidance Rule

Oct 1, 2019
Press Release
LaMalfa’s Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act helps avoid fire risk near power lines
(Washington, DC) – Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) U.S. Forest Service (USFS) proposed a new rule to strengthen vegetation management near power lines and electric rights-of-way, as authorized by language authored by Rep. LaMalfa that was signed into law in 2018.
Congressman LaMalfa’s bipartisan legislation, the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act, provides streamlined processes for the removal of hazardous trees or other vegetative overgrowth within or adjacent to electricity infrastructure – such as power lines – on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service lands, reducing the risk of forest fires and electrical grid blackouts.
LaMalfa said: “When my legislation was signed into law in 2018, it gave the USFS and utilities the ability to streamline the process of removal of dead or dying trees in danger of falling on a power line. I’m very pleased to see the Forest Service taking the next step by implementing this bipartisan language with their newly proposed rule. It’s just common sense to manage vegetation near electrical infrastructure. It is instrumental in helping to avoid wildfires in rural areas resulting from power line contact and the resulting blackouts to urban and rural electricity city users. The government should already be taking these kinds of steps in the first place, but previous law restricted responsible vegetation management practices, and the health and safety of our forests and rural regions suffer as a result – as we’ve seen in recent weeks with public safety power shutoffs impacting thousands of residents in Northern California. My legislation helps to correct that. I thank Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen for taking this important action to improve fire safety in our rural areas and energy reliability for rural and urban Americans.”
“This proposal is an important next step to ensure electric co-ops have timely access to rights of way on public lands,” said Jim Matheson, CEO, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “Streamlined approvals for conducting vegetation management and powerline maintenance will help bolster our system reliability while reducing wildfire risk. Electric cooperatives applaud the Forest Service’s action to implement Congressman LaMalfa’s important legislation.”
Under previous law, it could take months for utilities to receive Forest Service or BLM approval to remove hazardous trees from transmission lines rights-of-way, even if trees are already in contact with electric transmission lines. In 2012, 232 wildfires were caused by trees falling on power lines. The following year in 2013, 113 wildfires were caused by fallen trees.
Rep. LaMalfa speaks on the House floor to applaud the Forest Service’s implementation of his wildfire avoidance rule. [YouTube]
Congressman Doug LaMalfa is a lifelong farmer representing California’s First Congressional District, including Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou and Tehama Counties.