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Forest Service backs bill for tree removal near power lines

By Marc Heller | 07/10/2024 06:08 AM EDT

Deputy Chief Chris French said lifting timber sale rules could speed removal of potential wildfire fuel near utility lines.

Chris French.

Deputy Forest Service Chief Chris French. On Tuesday, he expressed support for bipartisan forest management legislation. Francis Chung/POLITICO

The Forest Service supports legislation to let electric utilities remove trees near power lines in national forests without going through formal timber sales, Deputy Chief Chris French said Tuesday.

At a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing, French spoke in favor of legislation by Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), , to ease the timber sale rules in those locations, which proponents say will help avoid big fires that are sparked by electric lines.

With around 18,000 miles of electric lines running through national forests, French told the Subcommittee on Federal Lands. “The proper maintenance of those is critical to protect our communities from forest fires, bottom line.”

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Utilities may cut trees through special use permits with the Forest Service. But to remove them, federal rules require formal timber sales, and felled vegetation is often stacked in piles during the process, the committee said in a hearing memo.

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