The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 11, 2002

Fact Sheet: Reducing the Threat of Catastrophic Wildfires and Improving Forest Health

Today's Action

Background on Today's Action

1. Facilitate Timely Reviews of Forest Health Restoration and Rehabilitation Projects. The Departments of Agriculture and Interior are proposing a new procedure that will enable priority forest thinning (fuels treatment) and forest restoration (reseeding and planting) projects to proceed quickly. Fuels treatment projects must be identified by federal agencies working in collaboration with state, local and tribal governments and interested persons and will not be conducted in wilderness areas or include timber sales that are not primarily designed to reduce hazardous fuels buildup. The fuels treatment projects and forest restoration projects will not include the use of herbicides or pesticides or the construction of new permanent roads or other infrastructure. The procedures will not be used for activities that would have an adverse effect on threatened and endangered species or their critical habitats, inventoried roadless areas, wetlands, and archeological or historical sites. The projects will restore forest and rangeland ecosystems, preventing catastrophic wildfires and benefiting many species and their habitat.

2. Amend Rules for Project Appeals to Hasten Process of Reviewing Vital Forest Health Projects. The Departments of Agriculture and Interior will propose steps to promote early and more meaningful public participation and more timely decision making on forest health project appeals.

3. Improve Endangered Species Act Process to Expedite Decisions. The Departments of Interior and Commerce will improve the process for reviewing fuels treatment projects under the Endangered Species Act. This will facilitate the timely completion of fuels treatment projects while providing needed protection for wildlife and restoring habitat.

4. Establish Improved Process for Environmental Assessments. CEQ will provide guidance for the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to develop an improved and more focused process for reviewing forest health projects. The agencies will review at least 10 initial projects to demonstrate the effectiveness of these new procedures.

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