Policy Platform of the Healthy Headwaters Alliance - Federal Policy Opportunities

This Policy Platform outlines actionable strategies for federal agencies that can be implemented immediately to protect and restore the watersheds of the western U.S. The policy recommendations were developed by Carpe Diem West’s Healthy Headwaters Alliance, offering near-term policy solutions for the long-term resilience of forested headwaters for water supply. Forested watershed and source water protection is critical for climate resiliency. Watersheds filter pollutants, control erosion, regulate temperature, attenuate floods, and buffer human activities from drinking water resources. Meanwhile, the mountain watersheds that provide over 60% of the drinking water to the American West are at serious risk to climate impacts.

The report delineates opportunities for current Federal policy change. Three frameworks for new policies are described, including:

  • Make Long-term Watershed Health a Priority
  • Make Smarter Choices on How State and Federal Fire Suppression Funds Are Spent, and
  • Smart Responses Post-Catastrophic Flooding and Fires (and Avoiding Them in the First Place)

The following lists the policy recommendations as further detailed in the Platform report:

A. Make Long-term Watershed Health a Priority

  1. Engage all landowners in the Watershed Condition Framework (WCF) outcomes
  2. Provide dedicated, multi-year funding for the Watershed Condition Framework
  3. Through state and federal legislation and policies, further acknowledge and empower local and regional stakeholder groups
  4. Require federal health agencies to provide direction, technical assistance, and support for state and local health agencies

B. Make Smarter Choices on How State and Federal Fire Suppression Funds Are Spent

  1. Reform state and federal fire suppression budgets
  2. Prioritize watershed restoration under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program
  3. Provide permanent statutory authorization for the Legacy Roads and Trails Program
  4. Incorporate climate change projections into fire suppression and restoration planning

Regarding recommendation B-4, Carpe Diem West explains: 

"The Forest Service and other agencies have completed some mapping of places where the most destructive fires are projected to occur. By incorporating climate projection data with data from the Watershed Condition Framework and current drought forecasts, the federal land management agencies can more proactively prioritize restoration and thinning, and develop adaptation plans that will help guide Burned Area Emergency Response actions."

C. Smart Responses Post-Catastrophic Flooding and Fires (and Avoiding Them in the First Place)

  1. Community engagement and updating of Burned Area Emergency Response policies
  2. Ensure FEMA actions and funding to mitigate extreme weather events (fires and floods)
  3. Develop and implement criteria for using NEPA’s “Special Arrangements” for post-catastrophic events

 

Publication Date: February 2016

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  • Policy analysis/recommendations

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