Implementation of the Healthy Forests
Healthy Forests Restoration Act Provides New Tools to Protect and Restore Our
“I have sent
you a Healthy Forests Initiative, to help prevent the catastrophic fires that
devastate communities, kill wildlife, and burn away millions of acres of
treasured forest. I urge you to pass
these measures, for the good of both our environment and our economy.”
- President George W. Bush,
An estimated 190 million acres of
public lands are at elevated risk of severe wildfires. In 2000 and 2002, the
Last year’s fire season saw
88,458 fires burn roughly 7 million acres, destroy more than 800 structures,
and take the lives of 23 firefighters.
The President introduced his
Healthy Forests Initiative in August 2002 at the height of one of the worst
fire seasons the Nation has ever experienced.
Tragically, the dangers and losses associated with catastrophic fire
extended into 2003. With assistance from Congress and through administrative
actions, work began on high priority thinning and restoration projects. In passing the Healthy Forests Restoration
Act, Congress has provided the Administration additional tools needed to fully
implement the President’s Healthy Forests Initiative.
Strengthens public participation
in developing high priority forest health projects;
Reduces the complexity of
Provides a more effective appeals
process encouraging early public participation in project planning; and
Instructs courts being asked to
halt projects to balance the short-term effects of implementing the projects
against the harm from undue delay and the long-term benefits of a restored
Administrative Improvements At
Under President Bush’s
leadership, the federal land management agencies have implemented several
administrative initiatives to help expedite projects aimed to restore forest
and rangeland health including:
the agencies’ administrative appeal rules to encourage early and more
meaningful public participation to expedite appeals of forest health
projects. To date, the Forest Service
has initiated approximately 166 projects under the revised appeals regulation
with only nine appeals reported.
to Federal agencies to make consultations under the Endangered Species Act
(ESA) more timely and better account for long-term benefits to threatened and
endangered species, and proposing new regulations under ESA to expedite
consultation for forest health projects that are not likely to harm threatened
or endangered species or their habitat.
Guidance from the
Council on Environmental Quality to improve environmental assessments (EAs) for priority forest health projects. The Departments of Agriculture and the
Interior have implemented this guidance by preparing EAs
for 15 pilot fuels treatment projects. Thus far, the agencies have completed EAs using the enhanced process on 13 of the 15 pilot
regulations under ESA, completed by the Fish & Wildlife Service, that are
expected to significantly accelerate the planning, review and implementation of
activities under the National Fire Plan.
December 2002, Congress enacted legislation proposed by the Bush Administration
expanding stewardship contracting authority, which allows Federal agencies to
enter into long-term (up to 10 years) contracts with small businesses,
communities and nonprofit organizations
to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest health.
Ø The new authority allows contractors, community
groups, and others to keep the wood material as partial payment for their
service, while improving environmental conditions and adhering to applicable
Ø Long-term contracts foster a public/private
partnership to restore forest and rangeland health by giving contractors the
incentive to invest in equipment and facilities needed to productively use
material from forest thinning to make useful wood products or to produce
biomass energy, all at a savings to taxpayers.
Service and Bureau of Land Management have approved stewardship contracts using
the new authority requested by the President and provided by Congress.
Stewardship contracting will increase as NEPA work is completed in 2004.
In 2003, DOI and
USDA formed the Interagency Wildland Fire Leadership Council to further
implement the National Fire Plan and to combat wildland fires more
effectively. The council provides a
coordinated, seamless management structure to all aspects of wildland fire
policy and integrates federal fire activities with those of states, tribes and
local governments, including land restoration and rehabilitation.
Record Amounts of Hazardous Fuels Restoration Work
2002, Federal land management agencies restored a record 2.25 million acres, an
increase of a million acres over FY 2000 levels.
2003, the agencies have already broken that record, restoring 2.6 million
wildland-urban interface (WUI) and public and private lands of concern to
communities at risk are a top priority ¾ nearly 65 percent of forest restoration
dollars has been invested in this area.
2001 and 2003, Federal agencies have increased our restoration of land in the WUI
from 775,000 acres to 1,600,000 acres, more than doubling WUI acres
2001-2003, agencies treated a total of 7 million acres. By the end of FY 2004, that total will come
to nearly 9.5 million acres.
Since 2000, funding for hazardous fuels reduction has tripled to $546
million this year for federal, state, tribal, and private projects. Future
funding will be provided based on program performance and efficiencies achieved
by this legislation, the new stewardship contracting authority, and other
administrative program improvements.
For more information on the
Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 and the Healthy Forests Initiative,
please visit http://www.fs.fed.us/projects/hfi/