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The Healthy Forests Initiative

The Bush administration drafted the "Healthy Forests Initiative" (HRI) in response to the current wildfire crisis facing western forests. HRI was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 19, 2003 as the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (H.R. 1904).

According to the White House, this legislation aims to:

  • "Significantly step up efforts to prevent the damage caused by catastrophic wildfires by reducing unnecessary regulatory obstacles that hinder active forest management;
  • Work with Congress to pass legislation that addresses the unhealthy forest crisis by expediting procedures for forest thinning and restoration projects;
  • and fulfill the promise of the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan to ensure the sustainable forest management and appropriate timber production."

(c) White House / Eric DraperThe Bush plan attempts to link three major concerns of communities in proximity to Western forests: jobs associated with forest products; risks posed by wildfire to property and livelihoods; and expenses associated with fighting wild-fires and subsequent forest rehabilitation.

The initiative proposes to "cut red tape," allowing the Forest Service to more easily implement "treatments" in the National Forests. Exemptions to environmental regulations such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Forest Management Act may be enacted in order to avoid law suits that slow down or prevent timber sales and other treatments.

H.R. 1904 has stimulated much debate from a variety of perspectives. Try these links to see the many sides of a complex issue:

U.S. Forest Service Official Website on the Healthy Forests Initiative -- http://www.fs.fed.us/projects/HFI.shtml

From the Bush Administration's"Healthy Forests : An Initiative for Wildfire Prevention and Stronger Communities" --
http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/healthyforests/toc.html

Forest Health Report: Defenders of Wildlife --http://www.defenders.org/forests/bush.html

The Democratic Alternative -- http://www.house.gov/georgemiller/rel4303.html

Point-Counterpoint -- Rep. Scott Mcinnis defends and Rep. Mark Udall opposes the Healthy Forests Initiative in two opinion pieces from the Rocky Mountain News (May 17, 2003).

"Citizens Call for Ecological Restoration: Forest Restoration Principles and Criteria." -- http://www.sw-center.org/swcbd/press/restoration5-21-03.html

Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano proposes the "Healthier Forests Initiative."

Last edited June 26, 2003

 
NAU's Program in Community, Culture and Environment Northern Arizona University