Healthy Forest : An Initiative for Wildfire Prevention and Stronger Communities
The Healthy Forests Initiative
President Bush is directing Agriculture Secretary Veneman, Interior Secretary
Norton and Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Connaughton to improve
regulatory processes to ensure more timely decisions, greater efficiency, and
better results in reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires by restoring forest
health. This includes:
- Improving procedures for developing and implementing fuels treatment
and forest restoration projects in priority forests and rangelands, in collaboration
with local governments.
- Reducing the number of overlapping environmental reviews by combining
project analysis and establishing a process for concurrent project clearance
by federal agencies.
- Developing guidance for weighing the short-term risks against the long-term
benefits of fuels treatment and restoration projects.
- Developing guidance to ensure consistent NEPA procedures for fuels
treatment activities and restoration activities, including development of a
model Environmental Assessment for these types of projects.
President Bush will work with Congress on legislation to further accomplish
more timely, efficient, and effective implementation of forest health projects.
Such legislation should:
- Authorize agencies to enter into long-term stewardship contracts with
the private sector, non-profit organizations, and local communities. Stewardship
contracts allow contractors to keep wood products in exchange for the service
of thinning trees and brush and removing dead wood. Long-term contracts provide
contractors the incentive to invest in equipment and infrastructure needed to
productively use material generated from forest thinning, such as small-diameter
logs, to make wood products or to produce energy.
- Expedite implementation of fuels reduction and forest restoration projects,
particularly in high priority areas, consistent with more targeted legislation
passed in July.
- Ensure that judges consider long-term risks of harm to people, property
and the environment in challenges based on short-term risks of forest health
- Remove a rider that imposed extraordinary procedural requirements on
Forest Service appeals that are inconsistent with pre-existing requirements
President Bush will work with Congress on legislation to supplement the Agriculture
and Interior Departments' effort to fulfill the original promise of the 1994
Northwest Forest Plan by:
- Removing needless administrative obstacles and providing authority
to allow timber projects to proceed without delay when consistent with the Northwest
- Renewing the commitment to a balanced conservation strategy in the
Pacific Northwest that reflects the needs of both local communities and the
environment. The Northwest Forest Plan represents a compromise to bring balanced,
long-term forest management to federal forests in western Washington, western
Oregon, and northern California. The purpose of the Plan was to protect the
forests and ensure a dependable, sustainable timber harvest from federal land
in the Pacific Northwest.
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