Bush's Forest Proposal a "Smokescreen," says NRDC

White House Plan Would Weaken Environmental Protections, and Could Increase Forest Fire Risk

Statement by Amy Mall, NRDC Forest Policy Specialist

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 22, 2002) -- "Protecting homes and communities should be the first priority of any national forest fire plan. Unfortunately, the plan unveiled today by President Bush is a smokescreen that misses the target in reducing this threat. Instead, the president's so-called "Healthy Forests" initiative exploits the fear of fires in order to gut environmental protections and boost commercial logging.

"Instead of focusing on fire-proofing communities, the Bush plan would emphasize logging large and medium trees in remote areas of national forests which does little to protect human life and property. In fact, removing the most fire-resistant trees and building roads in the backcountry may actually increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

"The administration is asking Congress to torch our most basic environmental protections in the guise of fire prevention. Rolling back rules for the timber industry and eliminating public participation represent yet another cynical attempt by perhaps the most anti-environmental administration in U.S. history to line the pockets of its corporate friends at the expense of public safety and our natural heritage.

"The plan promoted by President Bush ignores community concerns, weakens existing environmental protections, generates controversy instead of consensus, and cuts people out of the process. We have a better plan, one that would:

  • make protection of communities from fires the Forest Service's number one wildfire management priority;

  • provide major increase in funding for fireproofing homes and removing hazardous fuels right around communities;

  • shift Forest Service personnel skilled in preparing brush clearing and thinning projects from low priority backcountry areas to the immediate vicinity of communities;

  • carry out immediately the vast majority of fuel reduction projects right around communities which raise no significant environmental issues;

  • restore natural fires with prescribed burns to reduce fuel buildup and restore healthy forest habitats;

  • protect forestlands that are wild from logging and logging roads; and

  • preserve environmental protections and judicial safeguards.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.