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 Home > News & Policies > August 2003

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 11, 2003

President Bush Promotes Healthy Forests in Arizona

     Fact sheet In Focus: Healthy Forests

President Bush toured Inspiration Rock in the Coronado National Forest near Tucson, Arizona, to promote the need for healthy forests. The President viewed the effects of the 84,750 acre Aspen Fire that destroyed 333 residences and structures in the Summerhaven community. Using the President's 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. Compared with 2001 levels, the President's FY 2003 budget more than doubled the funding for Arizona forest health projects, and about twice as many forested acres will be treated in Arizona this year.

President George W. Bush talks about his Healthy Forests Initiative during a visit to the Coronado National Forest in Summerhaven, Ariz., with, from left, Incident Commander Dan Oltrogge, District Ranger Ron Senn, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, and Chief of the National Forest Service Dale Bosworth.   White House photo by Susan SternerLast year, in the midst of one of the Nation's worst wildfire seasons, President Bush proposed the Healthy Forests Initiative to care for forests and rangelands, to reduce the risk to communities, and to protect threatened and endangered species. The fires in 2002 consumed roughly 7 million acres, caused the deaths of 23 firefighters, and destroyed 842 structures.

President Bush directed Federal agencies to develop administrative and legislative tools to restore forests and woodlands to more healthy, natural conditions and to assist in executing core components of the National Fire Plan. The Healthy Forests Initiative is providing public land managers the tools to undertake commonsense management of our forests and woodlands. The initiative focuses on reducing the risk of catastrophic fire by thinning dense undergrowth and brush in priority locations that are collaboratively selected by Federal, state, tribal, and local officials and communities. President Bush increased funding for thinning work nearly threefold--from $117 million in 2000 to $417 million in his FY 2004 budget request. The initiative also provides for more timely responses to disease and insect infestations that threaten to devastate forests.

Taking care of our public lands also protects neighboring private landowners from suffering the consequences of inaction. Although progress is being made, an estimated 190 million acres of Federal forests and rangelands in the United States, an area almost twice the size of California, continue to face an elevated risk of catastrophic fire due to unnatural, densely packed forest conditions and insect and disease damage. Today, wildfires are burning in many states, and 1.8 million acres have burned so far this year.

Last year, the Administration set a record in the amount of treatment work done. More than 2.25 million acres of overstocked forests were returned to a more healthy condition. This is a million acres more than were treated in FY 2000. By the end of FY 2003, even more acres of overstocked forests -- 2.57 million acres -- are projected to be treated.

Key Components of the President's Healthy Forests Initiative:

  • Prioritizes projects that will restore and care for our forests and rangelands, reduces the risk to communities, and protects threatened and endangered species habitat.
  • Facilitates timely reviews of forest health restoration and rehabilitation projects with a collaboration of state, local, and tribal governments and interested persons.
  • Promotes early community involvement.
  • Accelerates the treatment of hazardous undergrowth and brush.
  • Complies with all environmental statutes.

Legislative Action:

  • The Administration strongly supports H.R. 1904, the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which the House passed on May 20, 2003 with strong bipartisan support.
  • The Senate Agriculture Committee recently voted in favor of similar forest health legislation. The full Senate is expected to consider the legislation in the fall.