Forest Service resumes prescribed fire program, but some fear new rules will delay projects
By Dan Kois
The Puget Sound National Forests are the largest in the state and under the control of the U.S. Forest Service. The agency is responsible for more than 200 million acres of land, most of which is managed by local volunteers. More than 7,300 National Forests and National Monument are protected in Washington State.
The Forest Service issued a final rule to authorize prescribed fire over federal lands in the northern Olympic Peninsula on April 22. The agency also released an environmental assessment that evaluates the impacts of the fire suppression program. For the first time, the agency is requiring National Monuments to have a fire suppression plan in place before burning designated fuels.
However, some members of the affected communities are worried the new rules will delay projects and cause their projects to be cancelled.
“It’s going to create delays for our communities. It’s going to cause us to be unable to make decisions because we don’t have the data to make informed decisions,” said Seattle resident Mary Sperry.
The Forest Service says the final rules are intended to ensure a timely recovery from the fire on the north Olympic Peninsula.
“Since fire suppression has now been authorized by the Forest Service, it’s in keeping with the National Park Service’s goal to avoid a repeat of last summer’s wildfires,” said Chris Corbett-Bailey, director of the U.S. Forest Service.
The final rule authorizes the Forest Service to conduct prescribed fire and combustional fire with all the activities described below.
Permitted burning of all fuels within a National Monument under the direction of the U.S. Forest Service.
All fuels covered by National Monuments, regardless of their location.
All fuels with less than 50 percent vegetation coverage not exceeding an area of 6,000 acres.
All fuels with more than 50 percent vegetation coverage are also allowed to remain