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The "Healthier Forests Initiative"

“[T]he recent legislation passed by the House does too much and it does too little.”

—Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona

In her keynote address to the Western Governors Association (WGA) Forest Health Summit in Missoula, Montana on June 18, 2003, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano criticized the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (H.R. 1904) recently passed by the House of Representatives. She urged the U.S. Senate to pass a “Healthier Forests Initiative.”

Gov. Janet Napolitano looks out the door of an Arizona National Guard Blackhawk helicopter during an aerial tour of Summerhaven on Saturday. She also met with local residents, many of whom lost cabins or homes in the area. Jake Kurtz/Arizona Republic
Gov. Janet Napolitano looks out the door of an Arizona National Guard Blackhawk helicopter during an aerial tour of Summerhaven on Saturday. She also met with local residents, many of whom lost cabins or homes in the area. Jake Kurtz/Arizona Republic

“It does too much in truncating legitimate public input into how this great natural resource is managed. It does too little in terms of providing actual resources to FEMA, the US Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management to begin fuel reduction projects that will not only help restore our forests to a healthier condition, but also help protect our forested communities and our citizens. Projects in the wildland/urban interface must be the priority for all concerned with the forest health debate,” said Napolitano.

The Arizona governor is not alone in her concerns. Republican governors Dirk Kempthorn of Idaho and Judy Martz of Montana joined with Democrats Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Napolitano in drafting a letter urging the Senate to make significant changes to the legislation before passage.

The governors are asking the Senate to give priority to fuels reduction projects in high-risk wildland/urban interface areas; insure that local stakeholders are involved in collaborative decision making processes; and “utilize sound science to consider the long-term effects of critical forest projects verses the effects of inaction while awaiting judicial rulings regarding injunctions.” The governors also object to the House’s stance on bypassing environmental regulations like the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, suggesting that Congress instead adopt policies as recommended by the WGA to streamline fuels reduction project approvals.

The WGA Forest Health Summit brought together a broad spectrum of political, scientific, and environmental interests in a collaborative process. Break-out groups involving all participants produced a set of consensus recommendations that will be considered for adoption by the WGA.

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C.L.

Last edited June 25, 2003

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