At-Risk Communities Burned by New Forests Law, Says NRDC

Conservation group pledges to watch for commercial logging projects that masquerade as fire prevention

WASHINGTON (December 3, 2003) - A new forests law signed today by President Bush will make it easier for timber companies to log big trees in the name of fire prevention, but do little for at-risk communities, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The conservation group pledged to be vigilant in monitoring new timber sales that abuse looser rules for cutting forests.

"The president's signature is an invitation for timber companies and the Forest Service to play fast and loose with our national forests," said Amy Mall, a forest specialist with NRDC. "There's a real danger that the president's pen might as well be a chainsaw."

The Bush administration exploited the fear of fire to ram through Congress its misnamed "Healthy Forests Initiative," according to NRDC. The group says the new law offers no guarantees of money or help for at-risk communities facing the essential task of clearing flammable brush from the immediate areas around homes and property. Instead, the bill allows increased logging of big, fire-resistant trees deep in the backcountry, far from homes and communities.

"We'll be watching closely to see what kinds of projects the administration labels as fire risk reduction," said Mall. "Commercial logging may fatten the wallets of timber barons, but homes and communities will continue to burn."

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.