Environmental Groups Promise to Expose Truth Behind Bush's Pro-Logging Agenda and Stop Projects that Don't Protect Communities or Restore Forests

MISSOULA, MT - Today, at 8:40 am MST, President Bush signed into law the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (HR 1904). Like the double-speak rhetoric offered by his "Clear Skies Initiative," which relaxes pollution standards for air quality, this legislation leaves homes and communities vulnerable to wildfire, severely limits public participation and does not ensure protections for ancient, old-growth forests or roadless wildlands.

"President Bush has ignored common sense home protection measures and limited citizen participation in order to increase commercial logging on 20 million acres of our National Forests, a stated goal of his administration since day one. You can rest assured that we will do everything in our power to stop projects that don't protect communities or restore our public forests," promised Matthew Koehler with the Native Forest Network in Missoula, Montana.

"In Montana, we have already witnessed the on-the-ground realities of the 'healthy forests' initiative through the implementation of the Bitterroot National Forest's burned area recovery plan, which we consider to be a living example of the Healthy Forests Initiative," noted Koehler. "While the Forest Service and Bush Administration promoted this project in terms of protecting Bitterroot communities and restoring the forest, the truth is that the largest trees are being cut down, the logging is taking place up to 10 miles from the nearest community and the important watershed and road restoring work simply isn't getting completed."

Jeanette Russell with Missoula's National Forest Protection Alliance explained, "Under Bush and the leadership of former logging industry lobbyist Mark Rey and former logging industry lawyer Rebecca Watson we have already seen the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management propose massive 'forest health' logging projects in roadless wildlands and ancient, old-growth forests. Unfortunately, this legislation, coupled with a slew of environmental rollbacks from this administration, will make such logging easier than ever."

Russell also pointed out that "The National Forest Protection Alliance's network of 130 member organizations from around the country will be in the field documenting the reality of these so-called 'healthy forests' projects. We stand by the fact that you simply cannot restore a forest or protect homes from wildfire through more commercial logging on our National Forests."

The Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (HR 1904):

* Does NOT effectively protect homes from wildfire. According to a Forest Service analysis, 92% of the land presenting a risk to communities is non-federal land, yet HR 1904 ONLY focuses on federal land. Furthermore, according to Forest Service experts the most effective way to protect a home from wildfire is to focus on the home and its immediate surroundings within 200 feet.

* Limits public participation. While the Bush Administration cries "analysis paralysis," claiming that lawsuits from environmental groups are preventing the Forest Service from reducing fuels, an October 2003 report from the General Accounting Office - the non-partisan, investigative arm of Congress - found that of 818 Forest Service fuel reduction projects, 97% proceeded without litigation. This is the forth-consecutive GAO study to contain similar findings.

* Does NOT ensure protections for ancient, old-growth forests and provides no protections for roadless wildlands. The bill specifically allows logging of ancient, old-growth forests in the case of of "epidemics of disease or insects" and in cases of windthrow, blowdown and ice storms. The bill also does not protect roadless wildlands from commercial logging under the guise of "fuel reduction."

* Undermines the very "heart of NEPA". Under the compromise bill, the Forest Service is not required to consider any alternative other than the agency's proposed action if the project is located within 1 1/2 mile of a community. The courts have called this consideration of alternatives the very "heart of NEPA."

For More Information:
Matthew Koehler, Native Forest Network: 406-542-7343
Jeanette Russell, National Forest Protection Alliance: 406-542-7343