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Committee votes down wildfire prevention plan bill

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SALT LAKE CITY — A House committee shot down a bill Monday that would have allowed the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands to develop and implement a long-term wildfire prevention plan that is responsive to climate change.

"I have now come to realize that (climate change) is not a Democratic issue; it's a Republican one," said HB77 sponsor Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City. "Refusing to acknowledge openly that this is a problem provides an impediment that I don't think should be there."

Though the bill failed to advance from the committee by an 11-4 vote, it triggered a debate revolving around the causes of climate change in Utah.

"Good policy should be backed by good data and research," said Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, who recommended that the bill not include the statement that climate change has been brought about by human activity. "We can then step away from these concerns that divide us and focus on the problem at hand."

Dalane England, vice president of issues at the Utah Eagle Forum, a conservative lobbying group, voiced her concern about the intention of the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

"The bill is so open, I could see changes bypassing the Legislature," England said.

Younger people spoke in support of the bill.

"We feel we're being ruled out, and our future is being threatened," said college senior Logan Froerer.

"I want to wake up day after day and look out the window and see a beautiful sky above me," said 14-year-old Treasure Lundskog, a member of imatter Utah, a coalition team that builds awareness on climate change issues. "I want to see the individuals of the world joining hands in the battle against climate change."

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