Department Of Interior

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DOI: John Wright, 202-208-6416
For Immediate Release: Aug 10, 2004
USDA: Julie Quick, 202-720-4623

Agency Officials Announce Record Fuels Reduction Expected in 2004, Second Anniversary of Healthy Forests Initiative

Bush Administration Doubles Fuels Reduction and Treats More Acres
in Wildland Urban Interface than Ever Before


WASHINGTON-Mark Rey, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment, and Chairman of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council, along with P. Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Policy, Management and Budget, and past Chair of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council today announced the Bush Administration is on track to set a record in fuels reduction projects in 2004, the second anniversary of President Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative. A new report, Achieving Healthy Forests and Rangelands: National Fire Plan Performance Update, released by the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) at its quarterly meeting, outlines accomplishments in the treatment of hazardous fuels and protection of the wildland-urban interface from catastrophic wildfires.

"The Healthy Forests Initiative calls for close coordination with state and local communities, particularly those communities that are in the wildland-urban interface," Rey said. "With an expectation of record fuels reduction, we are seeing the benefits of that coordination as we work with our partners to restore the health of our forests, protect wildlife habitat and reduce the risk of catastrophic fires to communities."

President Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative (HFI) introduced August 22, 2002 provides the tools to more effectively reduce wildfire risks and restore forest health. They include administrative reforms to streamline project decisions and the bipartisan Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HFRA), the central legislative component to implement HFI, that the President signed into law December 3, 2003.

"We have embarked on an aggressive wildfire management program to reduce hazardous fuels that have built up in our nation's forests and rangelands," Scarlett said. "We now have the tools needed to actively manage our public lands and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, while protecting property and restoring the health of our forests and rangelands."

The WFLC report details the progress made in wildland fire management since the Bush Administration took office and describe how federal agencies using HFI and HFRA are reducing the risks of catastrophic wildland fire.

The report shows that since 2001, federal agencies treated 10 million acres nationwide, an amount equal to work accomplished over the previous eight years. In Fiscal Year 2004 alone, hazardous fuels have been removed from 2.6 million acres to date, or 97 percent of the interagency target, with nearly two months remaining in the fiscal year. About 1.6 million acres have been removed from the wildland-urban interface (WUI) to date-more than 185,000 acres (113 percent) greater than the target. More WUI acres will be treated in 2004 than ever before. In the last 4 years, approximately 5 million acres have been treated in the wildland urban interface.

The report points out that land managers are now able to act more quickly to improve forest and rangeland health and reduce the risks of severe wildland fires. With the help of stewardship contracts and other wildland fire management tools stemming from HFI, communities will see results sooner. Federal agencies plan to sign about 80 stewardship contracts covering nearly 60,000 acres this year. Stewardship contracting allows federal managers to achieve land management goals, including fuels reduction activities, for public lands at high risk to catastrophic wildfire while meeting local and rural community needs by removing overgrowth. The resulting woody byproduct can be used for biomass energy production or as a raw material for other uses. These projects will focus on hazardous fuels reduction in the WUI and restoration of forest and rangeland health.

"We are working closely with state and local governments around the country to minimize wildland fire damage and protect people and property," Scarlett said. "By working together as a team, we are able to identify the highest priority areas for fuels treatments."

The WFLC was established in April 2002, to ensure policy coordination, accountability and effective implementation of the National Fire Plan and the Federal Wildland Fire Management Policy. The Council is composed of the directors of all the federal land management agencies. It also includes representatives from the National Governors Association, the Intertribal Timber Council, FEMA, the National Association of State Foresters and the National Association of Counties. The Council meets quarterly.

Note to Editors: A copy of the report "Achieving Healthy Forests and Rangelands: National Fire Plan Performance Update," can be obtained at the website for the National Fire Plan,, as well as .



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