NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bush Administration to Allow Forest Thinning

August 24, 2001

The Clinton-Gore administration cast aside decades of forest management policies in favor of an untested philosophy known as "eco-systems management" -- which worked out to mean letting forests exist "naturally" and manage themselves.

  • So that administration decreased logging by 80 percent, put in place regulations banning roads and used federal and state species protection acts to declare off-limits great areas of land.
  • In consequence, two-thirds of the U.S. Forest Service's trees -- close to 110 million acres -- are in deteriorating health or unhealthy.
  • The forests are choked with deadwood and underbrush -- which, acting as fuel, caused fires which consumed 7.4 million acres and 800 structures last year.
  • The General Accounting Office estimates it will take $12 billion to perform the necessary cleanup and restore the forests to health.

Now members of President Bush's cabinet have met with Western governors and come up with a plan to reverse the Clinton administration's policy of "benign" forest neglect, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • Sick trees and hazardous fuel will be removed through a process called "thinning."
  • Low-intensity prescribed burns will be allowed.
  • There will be more coordination between Washington and the states -- with the states assuming a greater decision-making role.

However, the administration didn't endorse logging -- the most effective and efficient way to remove forest debris and prevent raging fires. And environmental groups want thinning defined in the narrowest way.

Source: Editorial, "Playing With Fire," Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2001.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues