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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 12, 2002

Statement by the President

Just three weeks ago, I visited Oregon to see firsthand the devastating effects of the catastrophic wildfires that have burned more than 6 million acres of forests across the West this summer. I also announced a new and common sense initiative to restore forest health and prevent these unnaturally severe fires. I directed Secretaries Veneman and Norton to work with Congress to develop legislation to address the crisis in forest and rangeland health that has put more than 190 million acres of public land -- an area twice the size of California -- at risk of catastrophic fires. We have a simple choice: We can act now to protect these forests, or we can stand by and watch them burn. Secretaries Norton and Veneman delivered to Congress a legislative package that meets our responsibility to reduce fire risks quickly in high-priority areas, and I am very pleased that this proposal was introduced in the House of Representatives today. There is bipartisan agreement that public lands of the West are desperately in need of active management efforts to restore forest and rangeland health. I call upon Congress to act upon this urgent priority as quickly as possible.


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