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Healthier Ecosystems

The 2002 Farm Bill, signed by President Bush, provided the Federal Government’s largest commitment to rural conservation. Beyond that historic effort, the President has launched numerous other initiatives and programs to improve ecosystems. The President’s Healthy Forests Initiative is restoring, rejuvenating, and protecting forests and rangelands while reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires that tragically destroy wildlife habitat, homes and families, and prevent immediate forest or rangeland recovery. The 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy and Implementation Plan, which also addresses the threat of wildfires, was developed by the Forest Service, the Department of the Interior, the Western Governors Association, local governments, tribes, and interested members of the public. It is a collaborative approach for reducing the risk of wildland fires to communities and wildlife habitat.

The President is also meeting his commitment to restoring the salmon population in the Columbia River watershed in the Pacific Northwest, while maintaining affordable electricity and job growth that depends on the hydropower system. The President’s FY 2005 budget provides more than $600 million for Columbia River system salmon, through the Department of Energy/Bonneville Power Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce. This amount includes discretionary funding of $342 million, a $15 million increase over 2004. The President’s FY 2005 budget also provides $100 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund to assist states, tribes, and local governments with thousands of projects that benefit Pacific coastal salmon in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, and Alaska. This represents a $10 million increase over 2004. Restoration of endangered salmon stocks is important for environmental quality, Native American communities, commercial and recreational fishermen, and the economic vitality of the Pacific Northwest.

President Bush also recommended designation of new wilderness areas: 1.4 million-acres in the Chugach National Forest in Alaska -- the first wilderness recommendation in more than a decade, and the largest single Executive Branch recommendation for wilderness on National Forest system lands in several decades – and 64,000 acres to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forests,

An Historic Farm Bill – Doubling Support for Conservation on America’s Farms and Ranches

"This bill offers incentives for good conservation practices on working lands. For farmers and ranchers, for people who make a living on the land, every day is Earth Day. There’s no better stewards of the land than people who rely on the productivity of the land. And we can work with our farmers and ranchers to help improve the environment."

President George W. Bush
Remarks Upon Signing the 2002 Farm Bill
Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building, May 13, 2002

An Historic Farm Bill - Doubling Support Conservation on America's Farms and Ranches

On May 13, 2002, President Bush signed the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 into law, the single most significant commitment of resources toward conservation on private lands in the Nation’s history. Responding to the Administration’s efforts, the bill will provide more than $40 billion in funding for conservation over the next decade. These resources are needed to address a broad range of emerging conservation challenges faced by farmers and ranchers, including soil erosion, water conservation, wetlands, wildlife habitat, and farmland protection. Private landowners will benefit from a range of programs that provide voluntary assistance, including cost-sharing, land rental, incentive payments, and technical assistance. The bill places a strong emphasis on the conservation of working lands, ensuring that these lands remain both healthy and productive.

Through 2007, the Farm Bill authorizes USDA to:

  • Enroll as many as 39.2 million acres of land in the Conservation Reserve Program, which allows farmers to idle environmentally-critical and marginally productive lands for species habitat, riparian buffers, and soil protection.
  • Enroll an additional 1.2 million acres in the Wetlands Reserve Program. In total, wetlands
    amounting to an area the size of Delaware will be restored and protected as a result of the Farm Bill.
  • Help restore, improve, and protect up to 2 million acres of grasslands, one of the Nation’s most fragile ecosystems, through the Grassland Reserve program.
  • Preserve open space and protects prime farmland from urban sprawl with $597 million in Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program funding.
  • Provide $5.7 billion in Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) cost-share and
    technical assistance to farmers and private landowners to improve soil, water, and air quality.
    For the first time in three decades, farmers and ranchers will have voluntary, incentive-based
    conservation opportunities commensurate with the regulatory challenges that they face.
  • Provide an additional $310 million for ground and surface-water conservation. This will fund
    irrigation improvements, conversion to less water-intensive crops, and dryland farming.
  • Provide $360 million in Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program funding for private landowners to provide habitat for important wildlife, such as threatened and endangered species.
  • Provide $50 million in assistance for the water resource concerns in the Klamath Basin.
  • Permanently reauthorize the Resource Conservation and Development Program, which
    matches local goals for economic development and conservation with public, private, and nonprofit sources of assistance.
  • Create a new Conservation Security Program that will provide payments and incentives to producers who practice good stewardship.


The Healthy Forests Initiative: Protecting People, Wildlife, and Ecosystems

"Almost 750 million acres of forest stand, tall and beautiful across the 50 states. We have a responsibility to be good stewards of our forests. That’s a solemn responsibility. And the legislation I sign today carries forward this ethic of stewardship. With the Healthy Forest Restoration Act we will help to prevent catastrophic wildfires, we’ll help save lives and property, and we’ll help protect our forests from sudden and needless destruction. … This bill was passed because members of Congress looked at sound science, did the best they could to get all the politics out of the way for good legislation. Members from both parties came together, people from different regions of the country. A broad range of people who care about our forests were listened to, whether they be conservationists, or resource managers, people from the South, people from the West, people from New York. You see, we all share duties of stewardship."

President George W. Bush
Remarks at Signing the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003
United States Department of Agriculture, December 3, 2003

Years of hazardous fuels build-up, coupled with drought conditions, insect infestation, and disease, make forests and rangelands in many areas throughout the country vulnerable to often intense and environmentally destructive fires. In 2002 and 2003, 147,049 fires burned nearly 11 million acres. In 2002, 88,458 fires burned roughly 7 million acres and resulted in the deaths of 23 firefighters. The California fires of 2003, predominantly on State and private lands, cost $157 million to contain and resulted in 24 deaths.

The Administration is responding to this challenge by proposing record levels of funding for firefighting (up 60 percent from 2000), hiring additional fire fighters, purchasing additional equipment, accomplishing record levels of fuels treatment (The estimated 2.7 million acres to be treated in 2004 is up 1.5 million acres since 2000) and by advancing the President’s Healthy Forests Initiative.

In May 2003, the Administration completed implementation of the administrative improvements President Bush called for as part of his Healthy Forests Initiative. These improvements will reduce complex procedures, provide more timely decisions and provide greater flexibility in emergency situations. These improvements include:

  • Establishing new procedures provided for under the National Environmental Policy Act that
    will enable priority fuels treatment (thinning) and forest restoration (reseeding and planting)
    projects to proceed quickly. Fuels treatment projects under this procedure must be identified
    by Federal agency experts working in collaboration with state, local, and tribal governments and
    interested persons;
  • Amending the agencies’ administrative appeal rules to expedite appeals of forest health projects
    and encourage early and more meaningful public participation;
  • New regulations that will providing an alternative consultation process under the Endangered
    Species Act to expedite reviews of effects on listed species of forest health projects. The new
    regulations, will maintain protections for threatened and endangered species while ensuring that
    actions not likely to have an adverse effect on listed species are expedited;
  • New Council on Environmental Quality guidance to improve and focus the process for
    conducting environmental assessments. Fifteen pilot fuels treatment projects using the guidance have been completed and the new guidance is being used to expedite project preparation on many sites across the country.

On December 3, 2003, the President signed the Healthy Forests Restoration Act into law, implementing key objectives outlined in his Healthy Forests Initiative. The Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which received overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress, strengthens public participation in developing high priority forest health projects; reduces the complexity of environmental analysis allowing federal land agencies to use the best science available to actively manage land under their protection; provides a more effective appeals process encouraging early public participation in project planning; and issues clear guidance for court action against forest health projects.

The Healthy Forests Initiative and related activities are yielding results:

  • During the last four years, the agencies treated nearly 10 million acres, roughly twice the
    previous pace.
  • In 2004, Federal agencies expect to remove fuels from over 2.7 million acres. Agencies have
    already made 2004 the most successful year ever for fuels treatments.
  • In 2004, more acres close to homes will be treated than ever before.

The Environmental Merits of Thinning Crowded Forests

Rodeo-Chediski Fire (Arizona, 2002)
Both areas below burned…

Area thinned prior to wildfire: the fire was less intense, cooler and burned lower to the ground. The forest is vibrant shortly after the fire. The trees were unscathed.

Area unthinned: the fire was intense, hot and burned even the crowns of trees. The large trees are dead, and little regeneration is occurring; the soil is sterilized.


Stewardship Contracting

In 2002, as part of the Healthy Forests Initiative, President Bush asked Congress to enact long-term stewardship contracting authority for the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The Congress granted this authority, allowing contractors to keep wood products in exchange for completing forest health restoration work such as thinning trees, removing brush and dead wood, stabilizing streambanks, and improving wildlife habitat. Long-term contracts foster a public/private partnership to restore forest and rangeland health by providing an incentive to private sector investment in equipment and infrastructure needed to productively use material generated from forest thinning (such as brush and other woody biomass) to make wood products or to produce biomass energy, all at tremendous savings to taxpayers. The bureaus will sign about 80 stewardship contracts covering nearly 60,000 acres in FY 2004.


Protecting Our Trees and Forests from Invasive Species

The President continues to address the serious threat to the Nation’s public and private forest caused by invasive species. USDA Forest Service’s Forest Health Protection Program provides approximately $90 million annually to protect trees on Federal, tribal, State, and private lands from damaging native and invasive species like the Asian long-horned beetle, emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, sudden oak death, southern pine beetle, hemlock woolly adelgid, Port-Orford cedar root disease, white pine blister rust, western bark beetles, yellow star thistle, and miconia. The Administration is working to implement an emerging Pest and Pathogens Fund that provides resources for a rapid response to new introductions of invasive species and pathogens.


Interagency Wildland Fire Leadership Council

To better coordinate interagency efforts in implementing the 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy and Implementation Plan, the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior created the Interagency Wildland Fire Leadership Council. The council provides leadership and intergovernmental coordination for wildland fire policy.


Firewise: Helping Homeowners Prevent Catastrophic Wildfires

The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior are working closely with States and NGOs like the Student Conservation Association to implement the Firewise Program. Firewise encourages homeowners who live near wild lands to take sensible steps to reduce hazardous conditions that promote wildfires near their homes and communities. Since the first workshop, more than 1,800 people from 600 communities and 47 states have been trained in Firewise concepts.


National Parks: Restoring the Quality of Our Cultural, Natural, and Historic Resources

The President is fulfilling his commitment to address the maintenance backlog. The President’s FY 2005 budget provides $1.1 billion in funds for maintenance of park facilities and roads, a 37 percent increase over 2001 and nearly double the amount from just seven years ago. This $77 million increase over last year will bring the total investment in park facilities maintenance during this Administration to $3.9 billion over four years and will help fulfill the President’s funding commitment to provide $4.9 billion over 5 years. President Bush’s FY2005 NPS operations budget has more funds per employee, per acre, and per visitor than any time in the history of the National Park Service. The FY 2005 NPS operations budget of $1.8 billion is 20 percent higher than when President Bush took office.

For the first time ever, the National Park Service (NPS) has an asset management system in place to establish the actual conditions of NPS facilities and objectively measure improvements in their condition. This new facility condition index will help prevent the type of backlog created in the 1990s.

Already, the President’s commitment is achieving tangible results. From battlefields in Fredericksburg to campground restoration at the Grand Canyon, the National Park Service (NPS) has begun to improve the condition of hundreds of park assets. The National Park Service has more than 4,000 improvement projects completed, planned, or underway in the national parks in each of the 49 states with national parks.

Specific examples of completed work include $4.1 million being used at Everglades National Park to repair the wastewater treatment system and $2.1 million for Yellowstone National Park to upgrade a wastewater treatment plant.

The President’s FY 2005 budget includes a $4.6 million increase ($77.6 million total) for National Park Service’s Natural Resource Challenge, the ongoing effort to measure the condition of natural resources in national parks. The Natural Resource Challenge is a science-based initiative to strengthen natural resource management throughout the National Park System by protecting native species and habitats, improving the health of natural resources within parks, eradicating invasive species, and sharing information about natural resources with the public.


A Commitment to Cooperative Conservation

This year, through enhanced funding of the Challenge Cost Share program provided by Congress, the Interior Department is funding conservation projects dedicated to building partnerships and providing results. Under the program, the Bureau of Land Management will sponsor 88 projects to fund weed control, riparian habitat restoration, and water development. The National Park Service will sponsor 77 projects that will protect and restore habitat for threatened and endangered species and control invasive species. The Fish and Wildlife Service will fund several dozen projects dedicated to invasive weed removal and establishment, or expansion, of habitat for a range of species, including waterfowl.

The President’s FY 2005 budget calls for $507.3 million for the Department of Interior’s cooperative conservation programs, an increase of $84.2 million or 20 percent above the 2004 enacted level. A key component of this funding is the Cooperative Conservation Initiative at $129.5 million, which includes the Landowner Incentive Program, the Private Stewardship Grant Program, the Coastal Program, and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. The 2005 funding will allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to partner with 2,500 landowners to restore an additional 103,000 acres of wetlands, uplands, and riparian habitats through cooperative agreements.


Drought and Fire Assistance for Natural Resources

USDA conservation programs help protect resources damaged or at-risk as a result of severe drought and wildfires. USDA provides farmers with opportunities to plant alternative cover and utilize conservation tillage, protecting valuable soil resources from erosion. USDA’s Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program also funds emergency efforts to restore wildlife habitat damaged or destroyed by drought or fire. This allowed farmers and ranchers to plant native seeds, leave food plots in existing fields, establish buffers, and stabilize steep slopes. USDA’s Emergency Watershed Protection program also made $94 million in assistance available to protect natural resources by assisting with replanting fire-damaged areas to ensure that valuable soil resources are protected from erosion. Also, $10 million in additional Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funds were released by USDA in September 2002 to assist with drought related resource impacts.


Protecting Our National Wildlife Refuges

Our National Wildlife Refuges System celebrated its 100-year anniversary March 14, 2003. The
Department of the Interior’s Centennial Campaign is improving resource conservation, visitor programs, and facilities on wildlife refuges nationwide, and increasing visibility for wildlife refuges by strengthening and expanding partnerships.


Revitalizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Continuing his pledge, the President’s FY 2005 budget proposal once again fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million to support a variety of conservation approaches. The LWCF is a successful Federal-state-local partnership for conservation, having funded land conservation and recreation projects throughout the country with revenues from oil and gas exploration and extraction. Consistent with the purposes of the LWCF Act, programs such as Forest Legacy and the Cooperative Conservation Initiative promote stewardship of natural resources through partnerships rather than Federal land acquisition. The 2005 budget, for example, proposes significant increases for Fish and Wildlife Service conservation grant programs, such as an $11 million increase, or 16 percent over 2004, for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program, and a $20 million increase, or 69 percent over 2004, for the Landowner Incentive Grants program.


Restoring Healthy Pacific Salmon Populations

"Today, there are a lot fewer salmon in the waters. And the mission has got to be to fight the decline. The mission has got to be to make sure that we understand that without the salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers that this would be a huge loss to this part of the world. That’s part of what the focus of my short discussion is today, is to let you know that we understand in this administration that we want to work with the local folks to revitalize the salmon runs. The good news is that salmon runs are up. And that’s really positive. And we just need to make sure we keep that momentum."

President George W. Bush
Remarks on Salmon Restoration
Burbank, Washington, August 22, 2003

In November 2001, the Administration began implementing new actions to improve salmon protection and recovery efforts, including a comprehensive public review of its salmon hatchery policies and increasing its support for local recovery efforts, while maintaining current protections for listed salmon species. The President’s FY 2005 budget includes more than $600 million for Columbia River system salmon, through the Department of Energy/Bonneville Power Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce. This amount includes discretionary funding of $342 million, a $15 million increase over 2004.

His budget request also provides $100
million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund to assist states, tribes, and local governments with thousands of projects that benefit Pacific coastal salmon in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, and Alaska. This represents a $10 million increase over 2004. Restoration of endangered salmon stocks is important for environmental quality, Native American communities, commercial and recreational fishermen, and the economic vitality of the Pacific Northwest. The Bush dministration is making salmon recovery a top priority in the Columbia River Basin. The Bureau of Reclamation initiated planning for several habitat enhancement projects in several sub-basins of the Columbia system and purchased 427,000 acre-feet of water in the upper Snake River to enhance flows for fish migration.


Preserve America

Preserve America is a White House initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Introduced by First Lady Laura Bush in an address to the National Association of Counties on March 3, 2003, Preserve America advances a citizendriven approach to historic preservation and conservation by highlighting private heritage tourism and historic preservation efforts. The objectives of the Preserve America Initiative include: (1) a greater shared knowledge or our Nation’s history; (2) support for the economic health and well-being of our communities through heritage tourism; (3) increasing local and tribal participation in preserving our Nation’s irreplaceable heritage; and (4) strengthening regional identities and local pride.

In April 2004, the First Lady designated 31 Kentucky cities and towns as the Nation's newest Preserve America communities, the largest and most unique group honored to date since the first eight community designations were made January 15, 2004.

The Bush Administration's FY 2005 budget contains a request for $10 million in grant funds for which communities meeting the Preserve America criteria will be eligible to apply. These matching fund grants of $50,000 to $250,000 would go on a competitive basis to projects that preserve and use important historic resources for promotion of heritage tourism and other economic revitalization projects.


Take Pride In America

Take Pride in AmericaTake Pride In America is a national partnership established by the Department of the Interior that empowers volunteers to improve our parks, refuges, recreation areas, and cultural and historical sites. The program inspires citizen stewardship, and rewards outstanding volunteer efforts with presidential recognition. The program builds on a successful effort to enhance public lands launched by President Reagan, and works with governors and other state and local partners to support volunteer conservation projects. Take Pride In America is part of the President's USA Freedom Corps volunteer service initiative.


Landowner Incentive Program

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded $34.8 million in grants to States under the Administration's Landowner Incentive Program in February 2003. In February 2004, the Service awarded another $25.8 million under this program. The program will assist private landowners in conserving and restoring the habitat of endangered species and other at-risk plants and animals. State fish and wildlife agencies, landowners, non-profit groups, or tribes must contribute at least 25 percent of the cost of projects. With these grants, states will be able to provide financial and technical assistance to interested landowners.


Private Stewardship Grants Program

In May 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded the first ever Private Stewardship Grants. Totaling more than $9.4 million, 113 grants were issued to individuals and groups to undertake conservation projects on private lands in 43 states for endangered, threatened, and other at-risk species. Each grant must be matched by at least 10 percent of the total project cost either in non-Federal dollars or in-kind contributions.


New Wilderness

In May 2002, the Bush Administration recommended designation of a new, 1.4 million-acre wilderness area in the Chugach National Forest in Alaska . This is the first wilderness recommendation in more than a decade and the largest single Executive Branch recommendation for wilderness on National Forest system lands in several decades. The Chugach provides outstanding fish and wildlife habitat and world-class recreation and tourism opportunities. The revised forest management plan for the Chugach adopted in May 2002 will emphasize protection and improvement of fish and wildlife habitat while enhancing quality recreation and tourism opportunities.

The President signed into law the Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002. Public Law 107-282 designated over 450,000 acres of wilderness in Southern Nevada under the management of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, and created a new National Conservation Area (NCA) southwest of Las Vegas . The effort finalizes an outstanding effort of local and State government, private interests, and Federal agencies working together to resolve long-term, land-use issues.

In July 2004, the Administration announced a proposal to Congress to designate more than 64,000 additional acres adjacent to the existing Kalmiopsis Wilderness on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forests as wilderness in Southwest Oregon to continue to protect natural resources and wildlife habitat.

In September 2004, marking the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the Administration also recommended to Congress that an additional 8,090 acres of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia be protected as wilderness. The areas recommended are additions to the 10 existing wilderness areas administered by the Forest Service in the Southern Appalachians --one of the most biologically rich areas of the country.


Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program

Millions of people in Arizona and Southern California , and hundreds of thousands of acres of prime farm land, depend upon the Colorado River for water supply. Hydroelectric plants on the river provide a significant portion of power to the Southwest. To accommodate current and future water and power operations on the lower Colorado River and to address fish and wildlife concerns, a Multi-Species Conservation Program is being pursued by state, Federal, and tribal agencies. A Steering Committee is developing a plan for implementing conservation measures that will conserve and move endangered and threatened species toward recovery and decrease the need for future listings. Costs for development of the plan are being shared equally between the Federal government and the States. It is anticipated that the Program will restore over 8,000 acres of cottonwood-willow, mesquite, marsh, and backwater habitat.


Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds

In April 2003, Houston became the fourth city in the Nation (following New Orleans , Chicago, and Philadelphia ) to sign an Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds. Houston 's location is in the path of the heaviest migration on the Central Flyway. An Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds is a partnership agreement between a city and the Fish and Wildlife Service to conserve migratory birds through education and habitat improvement. Every spring, tens of millions of birds from more than 250 species make their way across the Gulf of Mexico to the United States and Canada . Ponds, lakes, native trees, and other plant life in city parks can provide important resting and breeding grounds for thousands of birds that fly through Houston every fall and spring. The Service provides challenge grants and technical assistance, while the treaty city develops and implements bird conservation projects, provides matching dollars and in-kind support, and develops additional partnerships. Backed by more than $340,000 in grants and in-kind funds, the treaty is a partnership between six Houston-based community organizations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and ConocoPhillips.


Restoring Declining Species

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service announced a policy in March 2003 to guide states, local, tribal, and foreign governments, businesses, private organizations, and individuals in their efforts to restore populations of declining species before they require the protection of the Endangered Species Act. The Policy for Evaluation of Conservation Efforts will ensure consistent and adequate evaluation of current and future conservation efforts when considering species for addition to the Federal list of threatened and endangered species. The policy identifies certain criteria that the two agencies will use in determining whether a future or recently implemented conservation effort, such as habitat restoration or protection, has contributed to the long-term survival of a species. This action makes listing that species unnecessary, or contributes to improving the status of a species to the extent it should be listed as threatened rather than endangered.


Reforestation: Planting Trees on Mined Lands

In 2002, the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) formed a partnership with the Department of Energy in making available an informative package promoting the benefits of reforestation. This included detailed information about the benefits of reforestation and a video that provided a technical how-to guide for tree planting efforts. OSM has sponsored multiple outreach and technology transfer events to promote a market-based approach to reclaiming mined lands and increasing carbon storage through reforestation.