November 24, 2003 | WebMemo on Energy and Environment
Bad policy combined with unusually dense, diseased and insect-infested forests allowed California's recent wildfires to char three-quarters of a million acres.
And perhaps for the last time, as congressional negotiators are replacing bad forest policy with active and proper management by supporting the President's Healthy Forest Initiative.
Fires Growing Deadlier
Late last Friday, the House passed H.R. 1904, the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 286-140. The Senate, despite repeated delays, supported the bill unanimously by voice vote. President Bush can now sign this long overdue bill into law.
Details of the Bill
Fortunately, unlike the pork-laden energy bill, the conferees agreed to a "clean" sensible bill. Conferees stripped unnecessary and costly provisions contained in the Senate version of H.R. 1904, including:
Following the House's principled lead, the bill now consists of a balanced common-sense approach that will make it easier for forest mangers to responsibly "thin" forests, perform "prescribed burns," and treat forests against insect and disease infestation.
Of particular significance, the bill streamlines the administrative appeals process and court challenges to fire-prevention strategies. Other provisions include:
Saving Our Forests
This "Healthy Forests" legislation is the first step in paving the way to saving our forests and preventing destructive forest fires that have killed and endangered many lives and destroyed wildlife and hundreds of thousands of acres of property and wilderness. In the aftermath of the devastating forest fires that plagued California and other states this year and in previous years, Congress answered back in a bi-partisan manner. The Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 proves that Congress can produce "clean" legislation without attaching costly taxpayer "goodies".