Unhealthy legislation.Byline: The Register-Guard
Less than a year ago, President Bush traveled to the scene of Oregon's massive Biscuit Fire The Biscuit Fire was a wildfire that took place in 2002 that burned nearly 500,000 acres (2,000 km²) in the Siskiyou National Forest in the states of Oregon and California. It was named for Biscuit Creek in southern Oregon. , where he pledged to restore a more natural balance to national forests that have become powder kegs as a result of a century of misguided fire suppression and years of withering with·er·ing
Tending to overwhelm or destroy; devastating: withering sarcasm.
Now, the U.S. Senate is expected soon to consider the president's "Healthy Forests Initiative The Healthy Forests Initiative (or HFI), officially the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, is a law originally proposed by President George W. Bush in response to the widespread forest fires during the summer of 2002. ," which was recently approved by the Republican-controlled House. Unfortunately, the legislation fails to live up to Bush's lofty promise. It does little to improve fire safety in the national forests or to protect vulnerable communities, and it does much to promote commercial logging and to restrict the public's right to challenge forest management decisions.
A coordinated federal, state and local effort to thin the nation's forests is badly needed. No one wants to see a repeat of last year's heartbreaking heart·break·ing
1. Causing overwhelming grief or distress.
2. Producing a strong emotional reaction: heartbreaking loveliness. wildfire season, when 7.1 million acres burned, killing 21 firefighters, destroying 3,000 structures and forcing the evacuation of 100,000 people from their homes.
But the Healthy Forests Initiative is the wrong approach.
The legislation would do for the Bush administration what Republican lawmakers would never have done for the Clinton - or any other Democratic - administration. It grants broad authority to political appointees to determine how and where 20 million acres (an area roughly the size of South Carolina South Carolina, state of the SE United States. It is bordered by North Carolina (N), the Atlantic Ocean (SE), and Georgia (SW). Facts and Figures
Area, 31,055 sq mi (80,432 sq km). Pop. (2000) 4,012,012, a 15. ) of thinning and logging projects are to be conducted.
While the bill's supporters say their measure would focus on protecting people, homes, ranches and other development, as well as critical watersheds, the bill lacks any such specificity and gives broad leeway lee·way
1. The drift of a ship or an aircraft to leeward of the course being steered.
2. A margin of freedom or variation, as of activity, time, or expenditure; latitude. See Synonyms at room. to an administration that seems to have achieved a near mind meld with the timber industry.
The bill's fatal flaw is its funding mechanism. It proposes to pay for the removal of brush and small trees, which are of no market value, by allowing loggers to remove commercially valuable older trees, which also happen to be the most fire-resistant. It's this provision that creates the danger that the bill is a pretext for opening national forests to logging.
If the president is sincere about the need to prevent future epic fire seasons, then he, along with Congress, should find the money to do the job without removing many of the large trees that are essential to maintaining healthy forests.
The bill also restricts the normal review process by limiting the public's right to challenge timber-cutting plans or offer alternatives, and by expediting judicial action. The bill's supporters cite a "bureaucratic bu·reau·crat
1. An official of a bureaucracy.
2. An official who is rigidly devoted to the details of administrative procedure.
bu gridlock Gridlock
A government, business or institution's inability to function at a normal level due either to complex or conflicting procedures within the administrative framework or to impending change in the business. " that does not exist. A General Accounting Office review of 726 ``hazardous fuel reduction'' actions recently proposed by the Forest Service shows that 95 percent were ready to move forward within the standard 90-day review process.
Republican supporters of the bill should also consider how a restricted appeals process might end up affecting them in the future. It's quite possible, even probable, that a Democratic administration could end up using the same law to impose its will in making forest-management decisions that have very different results than those likely to emerge from the Bush administration.
The Senate should fix these and other flaws in the Healthy Forests Initiative. The backbone of a national thinning effort should be the 10-year comprehensive wildfire strategy developed by the Western Governors' Association and the Clinton administration Noun 1. Clinton administration - the executive under President Clinton
executive - persons who administer the law three years ago.
Lawmakers would do well to revive an alternative bill crafted by Reps. Peter DeFazio Peter Anthony DeFazio (born May 27, 1947) is an American politician. He serves as a Democratic U.S. Representative from Oregon, representing the 4th Congressional District and is currently serving his 11th term. , D-Ore., and George Miller George Miller may refer to:
It will take decades of hard work to improve the health of the nation's forests and significantly reduce the risk of forest fires This is a list of notorious forest fires: North America
Year Size Name Area Notes
1825 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km²) Miramichi Fire New Brunswick Killed 160 people. . The president is right in urging Congress to move swiftly to begin restoring the nation's forests, but lawmakers should take the time necessary to make sure they do the job right.