NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Clinton's Disastrous Forest Initiatives

January 12, 2001

Critics charge that President Clinton has a very short memory when it comes to forest fires -- as well as a certain obtuseness when it comes to policies to prevent them.

Logging and road building in national forests give firefighters necessary access in emergencies.

But Clinton has barred road building in 58 million acres of national forests -- and his administration will reduce the amount of timber up for auction on federal lands by another 50 percent.

  • Such policies have allowed deadwood and undergrowth to create a tinderbox which last year led to conflagrations destroying 7.4 million acres of national forest land.
  • Forest fires in 2000 destroyed over 800 structures and cost more than $2.8 billion for suppression and recovery.
  • The General Accounting Office conservatively estimates that 65 million acres of national forests are currently at high risk of catastrophic fires -- and one in every three acres is either dead or dying.
  • The Forest Service today presides over some 192 million acres -- an area the size of Texas and Louisiana combined.

By some estimates the Forest Service could make $500 an acre selling wood that, unmanaged, might be destroyed by fire. But instead of selling the logging rights to private companies, the government will spend as much as $12 billion of taxpayers' money over the next 14 years, the GAO estimates, to cart off the deadwood.

Source: Kimberly A. Strassel, "Losing the Forest for the Trees," Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2001.


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