Bush Administration Actions to Promote Healthy Forests
In August 2002, in the midst of one of the worst fire seasons in recent history, the President launched his Healthy Forests Initiative (HFI). HFI focuses on reducing the risk of catastrophic fire by thinning dense undergrowth and brush in priority locations that are on a collaborative basis with selected Federal, state, tribal, and local officials and communities. The initiative also provides for more timely responses to disease and insect infestations that threaten to devastate forests. Using the Presidents Healthy Forests Initiative, the Bush Administration has taken steps to establish a more effective and timely process to protect communities, wildlife habitats, and municipal watersheds from catastrophic fires.
The Forest Service has implemented at least 46 high priority thinning and restoration projects using new procedures established under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Bureau of Land Management is currently implementing more than 20 projects.
The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior have improved environmental assessments (EAs) for priority forest health projects.
The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have approved stewardship contracts using the new authority requested by the President and provided by Congress. Stewardship contracting will increase as NEPA work is completed in 2004. These contracts are a tool to restore landscapes, reduce hazardous fuel loads, and restore water quality and wildlife habitat.
The Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 will:
Reduce dense undergrowth that fuels catastrophic fires through thinning and prescribed burns;
Improve the public involvement in the review process by providing opportunities for earlier participation, thus accomplishing projects in a more timely fashion;
Select projects on a collaborative basis involving local, tribal, state, Federal and non-governmental entities;
Focus projects on Federal lands that meet strict criteria for risk of wildfire damage to communities, water supply systems and the environment;
Authorize the Healthy Forests Reserve Program, to protect, restore and enhance degraded forest ecosystems on private lands to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species;
Encourage biomass energy production through grants and assistance to local communities creating market incentives for removal of otherwise valueless forest material; and
Develop an accelerated program on certain Federal lands to combat insect infestations.