President Bush Signs Healthy Forests Restoration Act into Law
On December 3, 2003, President Bush signed into law the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 to reduce the threat of destructive wildfires while upholding environmental standards and encouraging early public input during review and planning processes. The legislation is based on sound science and helps further the Presidents Healthy Forests Initiative pledge to care for Americas forests and rangelands, reduce the risk of catastrophic fire to communities, help save the lives of firefighters and citizens, and protect threatened and endangered species.
The Healthy Forests Restoration Act:
Strengthens public participation in developing high priority forest health projects;
Reduces the complexity of environmental analysis allowing federal land agencies to use the best science available to actively manage land under their protection;
Provides a more effective appeals process encouraging early public participation in project planning; and
Issues clear guidance for court action against forest health projects.
The Administration and a bipartisan majority in Congress supported the legislation and are joined by a variety of environmental conservation groups.
The Need for Common-Sense Forest Legislation
Catastrophic fires, particularly those experienced in California, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Oregon over the past two years, burn hotter and faster than most ordinary fires.
Visibility and air quality are reduced, threatening even the health of many who do not live near the fires.
The habitat for endangered species and other wildlife is destroyed.
Federal forests and rangelands also face threats from the spread of invasive species and insect attacks.
In the past two years alone, 147,049 fires burned nearly 11 million acres
2002: 88,458 fires burned roughly 7 million acres and caused the deaths of 23
2003 (thus far): 59,149 fires have burned 3.8 million acres and caused the deaths of 28 firefighters.
Nearly 6,800 structures have been destroyed in 2003 (approximately 4,800 in California).
The California fires alone cost $250 million to contain and 22 civilians have died as a result.