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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 projects.
  • Remove a rider that imposed extraordinary procedural requirements on Forest Service appeals that are inconsistent with pre-existing requirements of law.

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 Forest Plan.
  • 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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