President Bush's Healthy Forest Program

Wildfires destroyed nearly eleven million acres of wildlife habitat over the past two years. The Healthy Forests Initiative establishes guidelines for treatment of over 70 million acres of forests and rangelands that are at extreme risk of catastrophic wildfires, a landmass larger than New England.
  • Catastrophic wildfires devastate wildlife habitat, sometimes even fusing the earth, and are not the forest rejuvenators they once were.
  • The Healthy Forests Initiative will treat and protect 20 million acres annually, including pristine wildlife habitat and valuable watersheds, from catastrophic wildfires.
  • President Bush has requested $760 million this year for wildland fire management.
An example of what the Healthy Forests Initiative seeks to prevent by streamlining the treatment and appeals process:
  • Several years ago, in an effort to protect forestland, nearby communities, and Denver's watershed, the U.S. Forest Service set in motion the South Platte Watershed Protection plan in conjunction with state and local officials.
  • However, due to a nearly 800-step bureaucratic process, two lawsuits by environmental groups and another lawsuit by a forestry company, it took three years for a plan to be approved.
  • But before the plan could be implemented, the Hayman fire occurred in this area, evacuating six thousand residents, polluting Denver's water supply, destroying 137,000 acres, including a large amount of old growth forest, and creating the worst air pollution in Denver's recorded history.
The Initiative establishes guidelines for treatment of forest and rangeland to prevent catastrophic wildfires thereby saving millions of acres of wildlife habitat and private property. It specifically protects old-growth forest, vital habitat from many species.
    Catastrophic wildfires are unnatural and are an environmental disaster on many levels. These fires obliterate wildlife habitat, pollute the air, causing respiratory distress. Ash and erosion pollute waterways and drinking water sources.
  • Forests need to be treated and thinned to prevent these catastrophic wildfires. Potential short-term harassment of wildlife must be weighed against long-term survival. It is better that a bald eagle nest be disturbed briefly by mechanical thinning than obliterated by a wildfire.
The Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture's Forest Service will have treated 9.5 million acres by the end of 2004. 2.7 million acres were treated in 2003 alone.

"After many years of fire suppression, much of America's National Forests have tree densities 10 to 20 times natural levels. These heavy fuel loads create potential for catastrophic fires. The Izaak Walton League believes there is a compelling need for a comprehensive stewardship program to reduce fuel loads on many of our national forests."
The Izaak Walton League

"The opposition of groups such as the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society has little to do with forest science and much to do with politics."
(Aug.23 2002) Joseph Perkins, San Diego Union-Tribune columnist

"By its words and its actions, the [Sierra Club] has shown what it really wants: The status quo, with virtually no logging, a handful of small thinning projects, and more devastating fires like those which swept Oregon and the rest of the West this summer."
(Sept 30, 2002) Portland Oregonian editorial