NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Timber Rivals Join Forces to Fight Forest Fires

August 11, 2003

What began as a Western firefighting initiative has grown into a national forestry bill, salted with favors to win Southern support, says David Rogers. If enacted, the timber bill will grant federal land managers broad new license to thin millions of acres of public timber.

The purpose of the bill is to make it easier to manage forests in ways that would reduce fires:

  • Designated wilderness areas are exempted, and a 20-million-acre cap would be set on the lands affected.
  • But within these confines, standards would be relaxed for environmental reviews and judges would be ordered to shorten stays and give extra weight to the opinions of executive-branch agencies such as the Forest Service.
  • There were 39,467 wildfires in 2003 and 55,758 in 2002, for a 10-year average of 55,964.
  • Some 1.96 million acres were affected in 2003 and 5.26 million in 2002, for a 10-year average of 2.78.
  • The budget for the Forest Service's forest-fuels reduction program was $227 million in Fiscal Year 2003 and $209 million in FY 2002, for an +8.6 percent change.

As President Bush stumps for the measure today in Arizona and next week in Oregon, chances of Senate passage are far better than predicted just months ago.

Source: David Rogers, "Timber Rivals Rally in Name of Wildfires: Touching Hot issue, Logging Bill Nears Passage Despite Environmentalist Opposition," Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2003.

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