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Protecting America's National Forests, a report by the Heritage Forests Campaign

Heritage Forests Campaign Fact Sheet

Bush “Healthy Forests” Plan Would Increase Logging and Eliminate Environmental Protections

The wildfire threat to homes and communities is a serious problem that requires a thoughtful and balanced approach to wildfire prevention and forest thinning. The Bush Administration’s ‘Healthy Forests Initiative’ is exploiting the fear of wildfires in order to eliminate environmental protections and boost commercial logging. The Healthy Forest Initiative is a blatant and extreme attack on environmental laws and public participation in national forest management. By eliminating all requirements for environmental review and all opportunities for public comment and administrative appeal, the Administration's plan is even more extreme than the 1995 Salvage Rider.

The Administration’s Healthy Forests initiative would:

  • open more than 20 million acres to logging and thinning in our national forests;
  • waive environmental laws, public comment, administrative appeals and judicial review;
  • fail to give priority to threatened communities and watersheds; and
  • allow timber companies to log large, fire resistant trees, rather than just the smaller trees and underbrush that constitute the major fire danger.

Investigations by the General Accounting Office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General have found little evidence that the Forest Service has been allocating National Fire Plan funds as Congress has directed to the highest risk communities and ecosystems. In Fiscal Year 2002, the Forest Service spent only 39 percent of the hazardous fuel reduction funds near homes and communities. We support a balanced approach to wildfire prevention and forest thinning that protects homes and communities, protects the environment, helps small businesses and ensures accountability. Forest thinning should occur in areas where human safety and property loss are most endangered.

In conclusion, key elements of the Healthy Forests Initiative are likely to be extremely controversial and vehemently opposed by the environmental community. The Initiative is remarkably narrow in its scope: it focuses almost exclusively on reducing "needless red tape and lawsuits" as the key to improving forest health and preventing unnaturally intense wildfires. The Initiative does not even mention the need for additional funding to implement the National Fire Plan; nor does it address many key issues in fire prevention, such as actions to reduce fire risks in the wildland-urban interface.

Thus, from an environmental perspective, the Bush Administration seems to be more interested in overriding environmental laws and eliminating public participation than it is in developing a comprehensive and broadly supported strategy for reducing wildfire risks and restoring healthy forests and rangelands. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration seems to be missing an historic opportunity to forge a public consensus on how to deal with wildfire prevention.

White House materials can be found at: http://www.fs.fed.us/projects/HFI/
Sierra Club: http://www.sierraclub.org/forests/

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