Journal of Environmental Law & Litigation : Vol. 21, No. 1, p. 113-140 : Are Congress and the Executive Branch Fiddling While Rome Burns? The Impact of Fire as a Hazardous-Fuels Reduction Tool on Clean Air and Communities in the Sierra Nevada
Perez, Jerome E.
This article provides an overview of the use of prescribed and wildland-use fires on federal lands, Congress’ expectations of federal land managers to reduce the level of fuel loads on these public lands, an overview of the pertinent sections of the CAA that relate to smoke associated with fires, and the conflicts between CAA standards and the public’s desire to not be adversely affected by wildfires. I also provide a recommended course of action to address the need to reduce the enormous fuel loads on federal lands, while optimizing the use of fire as a tool to reduce these fuel loads where appropriate. Finally, I propose three fundamental changes that need to occur to better address the health and safety of individuals who live in areas that could be devastated by wildfire and those downwind from the adverse effects of smoke: (1) a better understanding and acceptance by Congress of “weighted acreages,” (2) a “Wildland Fire Use and Grant Program” using CAA funds procured from fines levied for violations of the CAA, and (3) the imposition of a local tax scheme to ensure homeowners take steps to reduce the dangers catastrophic fires pose to their homes.