Summary: H.R.2921 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed House without amendment (10/31/2017)

(This measure has not been amended since it was introduced. The expanded summary of the House reported version is repeated here.)

National Forest System Vegetation Management Pilot Program Act of 2017

(Sec. 2) This bill directs the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct a limited, voluntary pilot program to permit vegetation management projects on National Forest System (NFS) land adjacent to rights-of-way to better protect utility infrastructure from potential passing wildfires.

Program participants must have a right-of-way on NFS land. USDA shall give priority to holders of a right-of-way who have worked with Forest Service fire scientists and used technologies, such as light detection and ranging surveys, to improve utility infrastructure protection prescriptions.

Vegetation management projects will involve limited and selective vegetation management activities, which:

  • shall create the least amount of disturbance necessary to protect utility infrastructure from passing wildfires;
  • may include thinning, fuel reduction, and creation and treatment of shaded fuel breaks;
  • must only take place adjacent to the participant's right-of-way or within 75 feet of it;
  • must not take place in any designated wilderness area, wilderness study area, or inventoried roadless area; and
  • shall be subject to approval by the Forest Service.

Participants shall not be held liable to the federal government for damage that was proximately caused by activities conducted pursuant to an approved vegetation management project, unless:

  • such activities were carried out in a manner that was grossly negligent or that was in violation of criminal law, or
  • the damage was caused by the participant's failure to comply with the specific safety requirements imposed by the Forest Service as a condition of participation in the pilot program.

In order to implement the pilot program in an efficient and expeditious manner, USDA may waive or modify specific provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, including to allow for the development of contracts or agreements on a noncompetitive basis.

USDA may:

  • retain any funds provided to the Forest Service by participants in the pilot program, and
  • use such funds to conduct such program.

The bill states that the authority to conduct the pilot program and any vegetation management projects under such program will expire on December 21, 2027.