DATE September 18, 2002
USDA Secretary Ann VEneman-statement by Chairman Combest
Forestry Subcommittee Reviews President's Healthy Forests Initiative
Restoring productive, healthy forest environments key objective under review
September 12, 2002 -- House Agriculture Forestry Subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) commended Bush Administration leadership for its "Healthy Forests Initiative" to reduce catastrophic wildfire threats to communities and the environment.
During a subcommittee review convened by Goodlatte on Thursday, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, Mark Rey and U.S. Interior Department Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Rebecca Watson testified jointly about the proposal's objectives, which Goodlatte praised for significantly advancing common sense forest health efforts to prevent further damage caused by catastrophic wildfires. More than six million acres have already burned, with the fire season not yet over.
"The fire behavior witnessed at many of these wildfires can be described as extreme, where high rates of spread are observed – a fire storm of sorts prone to blow-ups, where fires become so extreme as to create their own weather. Fires like these are not a natural part of our ecosystem. They are not cleansing, nor beneficial to the forest; they are dangerous and destructive," said Goodlatte.
The "Healthy Forests Initiative" has four components:
timely treatment of forests at risk of catastrophic fires which pose the greatest risk to people, communities, and the environment;
long-term stewardship contracts with non-profit organizations, local communities and the private sector to thin overcrowding and reduce hazardous fuels;
focused participation up-front through public notice and comment rather than a reliance on extraordinary procedural requirements unique to Forest Service appeals; and
consideration for the long-term risks of harm to people, property and the environment when a short-term risk to forest health is claimed in federal court challenges.
"By lessening the potential for catastrophic wildfires, we give the citizens living in and around national forests security and value," said Goodlatte. "Further, there is a savings from a reduction in suppression and restoration costs associated with diminishing wildfires as a result of sound forest management. If we want to protect our firefighters, our communities and our forests, we must work to create healthy, sustainable ecosystems through good stewardship."
More about the "Healthy Forests Initiative" from the White House web site
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