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H.B. 275 Enrolled

    

WILDLAND FIRE AMENDMENTS

    
1997 GENERAL SESSION

    
STATE OF UTAH

    
Sponsor: James R. Gowans

    AN ACT RELATING TO FORESTRY AND FIRE CONTROL; CLARIFYING
    RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE DIVISION OF FORESTRY, FIRE AND STATE LANDS;
    EXPANDING RULEMAKING POWERS OF THE DIVISION; ALLOWING MONEY
    IN THE WILDLAND FIRE SUPPRESSION FUND TO BE USED FOR
    PRESUPPRESSION COSTS, SUBJECT TO THE LEGISLATIVE APPROPRIATION
    TO THE FUND FOR THOSE COSTS; INCREASING THE CAP ON THE FUND;
    ALLOWING THE DIVISION TO WAIVE A PORTION OF A COUNTY'S FINANCIAL
    OBLIGATION FOR FIRE SUPPRESSION COSTS; MAKING TECHNICAL
    CHANGES; AND PROVIDING A REPEAL DATE.
    This act affects sections of Utah Code Annotated 1953 as follows:
    AMENDS:
         65A-8-1, as last amended by Chapter 294, Laws of Utah 1994
         65A-8-6, as last amended by Chapter 331, Laws of Utah 1996
         65A-8-6.1, as enacted by Chapter 331, Laws of Utah 1996
         65A-8-6.2, as enacted by Chapter 331, Laws of Utah 1996
         65A-8-6.3, as enacted by Chapter 331, Laws of Utah 1996
         65A-8-6.4, as enacted by Chapter 331, Laws of Utah 1996
    ENACTS:
         63-55b-6501, Utah Code Annotated 1953
         65A-8-6.5, Utah Code Annotated 1953
         65A-8-6.6, Utah Code Annotated 1953
    Be it enacted by the Legislature of the state of Utah:
        Section 1. Section 63-55b-6501 is enacted to read:
         63-55b-6501. Repeal date - Section 65A-8-6.6.
        Section 65A-8-6.6 is repealed July 1, 1998.


        Section 2. Section 65A-8-1 is amended to read:
         65A-8-1. Division of responsibilities for fire control and the preservation of forest,
     watershed, and other lands -- Reciprocal agreements for fire protection.
        (1) The division shall determine and execute the best methods for protecting private and
    public property by:
        (a) preventing the origin and spread of fire on nonfederal forest, range, and watershed lands
    in unincorporated areas of the state;
        (b) protecting nonfederal forest and watershed areas on conservation principles; and
        (c) encouraging private landowners in preserving, protecting, and managing forest and other
    lands throughout the state.
        (2) The division shall take action it considers necessary to control wildland fires and protect
    life and property on the nonfederal forest, range, and watershed lands within unincorporated areas
    of the state.
        (3) The division may enter into agreements with public or private agencies, or individuals
    for the express purpose of protecting, managing, or rehabilitating those lands.
        (4) The division may enter into a reciprocal agreement with any fire protection organization,
    including federal agencies, to provide fire protection for land and improvements for which the
    organization normally provides fire protection.
        Section 3. Section 65A-8-6 is amended to read:
         65A-8-6. Cooperative fire protection agreements with counties.
        (1) The county legislative body of any county may enter into a cooperative agreement with
    the division to receive financial and supervisory cooperation and assistance from the division.
        (2) A county may not receive cooperation or assistance under Subsection (1) until a
    cooperative agreement is executed by the county legislative body and the division.
        (3) The state forester may execute the agreements and may divide the state into fire
    protection districts.
        (4) These districts shall provide efficient and economical fire protection within the area
    defined.

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        (5) The districts may comprise one or more counties, or portions of counties to be specified
    in the cooperative agreements.
        (6) Under the terms of the cooperative agreements, the state forester shall file annual budgets
    for operation of the cooperative districts with each participating county.
        (7) [(a)] If the county approves a budget mutually acceptable to the county and the state
    forester, and budgets an amount for actual fire suppression costs determined to be normal by the state
    forester, the agreement shall commit the state to pay 1/2 the actual suppression costs that exceed the
    stated normal costs.
        [(b) To determine normal fire suppression costs of a county, the state forester shall:]
        [(i) examine actual fire suppression costs for the last seven years;]
        [(ii) exclude the highest and lowest years;]
        [(iii) average costs of the remaining five years;]
        [(iv) adjust the average cost for inflation; and]
        [(v) add $1,000.]
        Section 4. Section 65A-8-6.1 is amended to read:
         65A-8-6.1. Wildland Fire Suppression Fund created.
        (1) There is created an expendable trust fund known as the Wildland Fire Suppression Fund.
        (2) The fund shall be administered by the division to pay fire suppression and presuppression
    costs on eligible lands within unincorporated areas of counties.
        (3) The contents of the fund shall include:
        (a) payments by counties pursuant to written agreements made under Section 65A-8-6.2;
        (b) interest and earnings from the investment of fund monies; and
        (c) money appropriated by the Legislature.
        (4) Fund monies shall be invested by the state treasurer with the earnings and interest
    accruing to the fund.
        (5) (a) A maximum level of [$3,000,000] $5,000,000 is established for the fund.
        (b) (i) Except as provided in Subsection (b)(ii), if the amount of money in the fund equals
    or exceeds [$3,000,000] $5,000,000 on March 31, no assessments may be charged for the following

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    year.
        (ii) The waiver of assessments provided in Subsection (b)(i) does not apply to any equity
    payment required by Section 65A-8-6.2.
        Section 5. Section 65A-8-6.2 is amended to read:
         65A-8-6.2. Agreements for coverage by the Wildland Fire Suppression Fund -- Eligible
     lands -- County and state obligations -- Termination -- Revocation.
        (1) (a) A county legislative body may annually enter into a written agreement with the state
    forester to provide for payment of county fire suppression costs in excess of the county's fire
    suppression budget out of the Wildland Fire Suppression Fund.
        (b) Fire suppression costs on forest, range, and watershed lands within the unincorporated
    area of a county, except federal or state lands, are eligible for coverage by the Wildland Fire
    Suppression Fund.
        (2) An agreement for payment of fire suppression costs from the Wildland Fire Suppression
    Fund shall provide that the county shall:
        (a) pay into the fund an amount equal to:
        (i) $.01 times the number of acres of privately- or county-owned land in the unincorporated
    area of the county; and
        (ii) .0001 times the taxable value of property in the unincorporated area of the county; and
        (b) budget an amount for fire suppression costs determined to be normal by the state forester
    in accordance with the formula specified [in Section 65A-8-6] by rule.
        (3) (a) After the first year of operation of the fund, any county that elects to initiate
    participation in the fund, or reestablish participation in the fund after participation was terminated,
    shall be required to make an equity payment, in addition to the assessment provided in Subsection
    (2)(a).
        (b) The equity payment shall represent what the county's equity in the fund would be if the
    county had made assessments into the fund for each of the previous three years.
        (c) The equity payment shall be determined by the state forester in accordance with division
    rules.

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        (4) The agreement shall provide that:
        (a) the state shall pay into the fund an amount equal to the county's payment, including any
    equity payment required under Subsection (3); and
        (b) if monies in the fund are insufficient to pay for all eligible fire suppression costs, the
    state shall pay for 1/2 of the county's remaining costs.
        (5) The agreement shall provide for revocation of the agreement for failure to pay
    assessments when due.
        (6) Any county that elects to withdraw from participation in the fund, or whose participation
    in the fund is revoked due to failure to pay its assessments when due, shall forfeit any right to any
    previously paid assessments by the county.
        Section 6. Section 65A-8-6.3 is amended to read:
         65A-8-6.3. Disbursements from the Wildland Fire Suppression Fund.
        [(1) When a fire occurs on lands covered by the fund, the county shall make a prudent effort
    to control the fire with the resources at its disposal.]
        [(2) (a) The county may petition the division to transfer control of the fire to the division.]
        [(b) Upon transfer of fire suppression control to the division, fund monies may be used to
    pay for fire suppression costs, provided that the county has incurred fire suppression costs in excess
    of the budgeted normal fire suppression costs.]
        [(3) Filing of a petition by a county does not release the county from its obligation to
    continue maximum effort to control the fire, unless explicit instruction to the contrary is given by
    the division to the county.]
        [(4)] (1) Disbursements from the fund shall be made only upon written order of the state
    forester or his authorized representative.
        [(5)] (2) If the state forester determines monies in the fund may be insufficient to cover
    eligible costs in a program year, the state forester may delay making disbursements from the fund
    until the close of the program year, at which time available monies shall be prorated among those
    entitled to payments at less than 100%.
        Section 7. Section 65A-8-6.4 is amended to read:

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         65A-8-6.4. Division to make rules governing Wildland Fire Suppression Fund.
        The division shall make rules to administer the Wildland Fire Suppression Fund, including
    rules:
        (1) requiring documentation for the number of acres of privately- or county-owned land in
    the unincorporated area of the participating counties;
        (2) describing the method or formula for determining:
        (a) normal fire suppression costs; and
        (b) equity payments required by Section 65A-8-6.2; and
        (3) specifying fire suppression and presuppression costs that may be paid with disbursements
    from the fund.
        Section 8. Section 65A-8-6.5 is enacted to read:
         65A-8-6.5. Presuppression costs -- Disbursements from fund -- Credit against
     assessment -- Limited by appropriation.
        (1) The state forester or the state forester's authorized representative may make
    disbursements from the Wildland Fire Suppression Fund to pay for costs of presuppression and fire
    management activities initiated by counties participating in the fund, subject to the limitations
    specified in this section.
        (2) Payments to a county for costs of presuppression and fire management activities in any
    year may not exceed the county's assessment under Subsection 65A-8-6.2(2)(a).
        (3) In lieu of making a disbursement from the fund for a county's costs of presuppression
    and fire management activities, the county may be given a credit against its assessment under
    Subsection 65A-8-6.2(2)(a) equal to those costs. The credit may not exceed the county's assessment
    under Subsection 65A-8-6.2(2)(a).
        (4) The total amount of money in the fund that may be allocated to cover costs of
    presuppression and fire management activities initiated by counties may not exceed the legislative
    appropriation to the fund for those costs.
        Section 9. Section 65A-8-6.6 is enacted to read:
         65A-8-6.6. Waiver of a portion of a county's financial obligation for fire suppression

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     costs -- Amount.
        (1) The division may waive a portion of a county's financial obligation to the division for
    the county's share of actual fire suppression costs under the terms of an agreement made under
    Section 65A-8-6.
        (2) A county is responsible for the portion of its financial obligation represented by an
    amount equal to a one-year 5% increase in property tax collections. The division may waive all or
    part of the remaining portion of a county's financial obligation.

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