White House Forest Fire Plan Would Increase Risk of Fire, Says NRDC

Group Blasts Administration for Yet Another Decision Eliminating Public Input

WASHINGTON (December 11, 2002) -- The White House's plan to reduce the threat of wildfires, which it announced this afternoon, would actually increase fire risk to homes and communities, cut out public input, eliminate environmental review, and further damage federal forestlands, according to NRDC (The Natural Resources Defense Council). (For the administration announcement, go to http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/2002/12/fs-0504.htm.)

"This plan is yet another example of how politics trumps science with this administration," said Amy Mall, a forest and land specialist at NRDC. "We know how to save homes and communities from forest fires, and this is not the way to do it. This plan is nothing more than a payback to the timber industry, allowing it to remove trees far from where people live." Mall noted that numerous studies show that the way to save houses from forest fires is to remove trees and bushes within a few dozen yards of the homesite and use fire-resistant building materials. Homes that are not fire-proofed in this way can burn down in even low intensity wildfires.

The White House proposal would eliminate environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act for a broad array of federal agency forest management decisions, many of them among the most controversial the agencies undertake.

"The science is open and shut that this kind of logging in the back country poses great risks, and can even make fires worse," said NRDC Forestry Project Director Nathaniel Lawrence. "These are the projects where environmental review is most needed and where informed public input and oversight is most critical."

"It's indefensible to defy science like this, to cut out the public, and to log the back woods instead of working in and around communities," said Mall. "The public should be outraged at how the administration has misrepresented the real intent of this industry-friendly, anti-environmental proposal."

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.

Related NRDC Pages

The Bush Record: Forest Protection