Legislation Exploits the Fear of Fire to Boost Logging

NRDC Ads Expose Congress's Fire Sale of Our National Forests

WASHINGTON (July 8, 2003) -- The wildfire season is upon us, offering some in Congress the perfect opportunity to enact legislation that offers political gain at the public's expense, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). That's why the group is taking out full-page newspaper advertisements -- to debunk the myth that congressional legislation that recently passed in the House of Representatives and is soon to be considered in the Senate would reduce the risk of forest fires. In reality, says NRDC, the legislation would be good for the timber industry but not necessarily the communities throughout the West at risk from wildfires.

"No one disagrees that fires are a serious threat to many Western communities. But the misnamed 'Healthy Forests Restoration Act' ignores science and undermines our laws to help timber companies, while leaving our homes and communities threatened by catastrophic fires," said Amy Mall, NRDC's forests and public lands specialist. "The hidden purpose of the bill is to allow timber companies to evade environmental laws and circumvent public input in order to cut down large, fire-resistant trees on millions of acres of our public forestlands."

NRDC is placing newspaper ads in California and Nevada to raise awareness about what it considers to be a faulty fire prevention bill. "Forest experts recommend thinning trees around your house to protect it from forest fires," says the ad. Below a photo of a heavily logged -- supposedly fireproof -- forest, the ad notes that the local representative who voted for the House bill favors "a more extreme idea."

Below the tag line is the following explanatory text: "Forest Service research has found that the most effective way to protect communities from forest fires is to thin trees and brush near homes. But rather than safeguard communities from wildfires, the legislation that Congressman [X] voted for promotes widespread logging in our national forests -- far away from homes. It's now up to [Senators] to protect our communities, rather than pad the pockets of the timber industry."

The ad directs readers to visit NRDC's website for more details. Those details include the fact that according to the Forest Services' own scientific research, the most effective way to protect communities is to focus on fireproofing homes and "thinning" trees in the immediate surroundings. (See Cohen, Jack D., "Reducing the Wildland Fire Threat to Homes," USDA Forest Service report PSW-GTR-173, 1999.)

NRDC charges that proponents of the House-passed legislation ignored this crucial information, choosing instead to exploit the fear of fire to eliminate federal environmental review requirements and the public's right to appeal logging decisions. Industry stalwarts such as the American Forest & Paper Association, the Society of American Foresters, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have endorsed the legislation. Not surprisingly, timber companies stand to benefit the most from weakening our laws to facilitate large-scale and widespread logging of old-growth trees deep in our forests, says NRDC.

"Job #1 must be to protect homes and communities at risk from fire. But all the so-called 'Healthy Forests Restoration Act' does is promote hasty, aggressive and ill-considered logging in the name of fire prevention," added Mall. "The Senate should stop this phony forest fire bill in its tracks."

NRDC's full-page ads will run tomorrow in local newspapers in the districts of the following legislators:

Rep. Calvin Dooley (D-California), Fresno Bee
Rep. Joe Baca (D-California), San Bernardino Sun
Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nevada), Las Vegas Review-Journal and Las Vegas Sun

Click here for NRDC's analysis of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act.

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 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related NRDC Pages
Wildfires in Western Forests