U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, joined U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) to introduce S. 989, the Flint Hills Preservation Act late last week. This bill will protect the ability of landowners to use prescribed burns as a tool to preserve the Tallgrass Prairie ecosystem in the Flint and Osage Hills. Specifically, this bill includes the Oklahoma counties of Tulsa, Washington, and Osage.
Prescribed burning is a proven land management practice: it protects the ecosystem by reducing the chances of destructive wildfires and it enhances grazing land and keeps pastures free from invasive species. This bill prevents the EPA from including smoke from prescribed fires in its determination of attainment under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
Senator Inhofe said, "I am pleased to work with Senator Moran on this common-sense legislation that preserves the Tallgrass Prairie ecosystem in Oklahoma and Kansas and helps our agricultural communities manage their pastures. The EPA’s efforts to limit prescribed burns in this region fail to take into account the fact that they play a key role in protecting our Tallgrass Prairies. EPA is pitting two separate and unrelated environmental issues against one another, putting our ecosystem at risk. This bill will provide a simple solution that balances our states’ environmental and economic needs."
Senator Moran said, "Rather than have to worry about a schedule dictated by the EPA, this legislation will allow landowners to manage prescribed burning around the forces of weather and other factors impacting safe conditions, while at the same time preserve a unique ecosystem."
Oklahoma Support S. 989 is evidenced in part by a statement from the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association which wrote, "Prescribed burning is an extremely effective management tool our members use to maintain high quality pasture and range for ages. Prescribed burning is an essential component of beef production. S. 989 prevents EPA from counting the smoke from prescribed fires against several Kansas and Oklahoma counties when determining the attainment status under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards […] prescribed burning of pastures is used during an extremely narrow time frame at the very beginning of the growing season. It is extremely focused and highly managed. By their very nature, prescribed burns are not year round activities; they are quick, short lived, seasonal events. There is ample scientific evidence supporting the use of prescribed burning. Any action from any federal agency which impedes our ability to utilize this tool is unwarranted."
John B. Kane, Kane Cattle Company, said, "I personally oversee ranching operations in both Washington and Osage counties. Prescribed burning is absolutely critical to the effective management of our land. Without it, the health of both our cattle and pasture would suffer. This is a clear example where landowners like me have every reason and incentive to maintain the environmental quality of the land. The economics of my business depend on it, and because of this, we do not need the EPA to regulate when, where, and whether we manage prescribed burns in a given year. We will do it responsibly without their help. I applaud Senator Inhofe for his work to keep the EPA from trying to regulate my business unnecessarily."