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Forest Protection and Restoration: Debunking the "Healthy Forests Initiative"
October 2003

The Arkansas Chapter Sierra Club October 2003

The Healthy Forests Initiative (HFI) is President Bush's response to the past year's forest fires.The initiative is based on the false assumption that landscape-wide logging will decrease forest fires.

This premise is contradicted by the general scientific consensus, which has found that logging can increase fire risk. This disconnect between what the administration says and what science says about logging and fire reveals the administration's true goal which is to use the forest fire issue to cut the public out of the public lands management decision making process and to give logging companies virtually free access to our National Forests. The HFI, if fully enacted, would:

  1. Limit environmental analysis and limit public participation by (a) excluding environmental analysis for any site-specific project the Forest Service and BLM claim will reduce hazardous fuels, including post-fire salvage projects; and by (b) limiting public participation by allowing "hazardous fuels reduction projects" to be categorically excluded and suspends citizen's rights to appeal projects.
  2. Accelerate aggressive "thinning" across millions of acres of backcountry forests miles away from communities at risk to forest fires.
  3. Uses 'goods for services' as the Funding Mechanism by (a) allowing the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to give away trees to logging companies as payment for any management activity, including logging on public lands; and (b) creating a powerful new incentive to log large fire-resistant trees, old growth, and other commercially valuable forests.

Here's what's hiding behind the smoke:

More detail on the Bush Administration's Healthy Forests Initiative (HFI) using the hype of the 2002 fire season, the Bush administration proposed a series of drastic administrative changes to the way our National Forests are managed. Combined, these proposals will give free reign to the timber industry across National Forests under the guise of "fuel reduction." The President's ill-named "Healthy Forests Initiative" will do little to protect communities and homes from forest fires, instead this sweeping initiative is concentrated on decreasing public involvement, reducing environmental protection and increasing access to our National Forests and other federal lands for timber companies. Real public protection requires honest fuel reduction a quarter-mile around communities and involving the public and community leaders in long-term education and planning. Instead, the President's plan would promote logging of large, commercially valuable trees miles from at-risk communities. When the plan met with widespread public skepticism and Congress adjourned in late 2002 without passing Bush's legislation, the President decided to act by decree, pushing parts of his plan through administratively. The administration then began a series of new National Forest management proposals to limit the analysis of environmental impacts, repeal the ability of the public to appeal bad projects and increase the degradation of wild forests. Each proposal will increase harm to forest habitat and wildlife; together these proposals will turn scientific forest management back 40 years.

A note From Holly Ferguson the Arkansas National Forest Campaign Coordinator.

Hello Fellow Forest Protectors,

If you are wondering what exactly you can do to keep our National Forests pristine and truly healthy, then why don't you attend the Southern Plains National Forest Watch conference at the Ozark Natural Science Center on October 17-19? There will be workshops on a variety of forest issues from national fire legislation, to working within the Forest Service framework on forest appeals, to field training with nationally acclaimed forest experts. Not only will this conference be highly educational, but it will also be incredibly fun. We will have live music, nature walks in the beautifully fall painted forests, and most importantly a great group of activists!

For more info: please contact Holly Ferguson or Mariah Oury at 479-571-3005 or email benigning@yahoo.com.

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