Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
HOUSE TO VOTE ON FIRE LEGISLATION GUTTING ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS AND REMOVING CITIZENS FROM DECISIONS ON PUBLIC LANDS, WHILE FAILING TO PROTECT COMMUNITIES
NEW GAO REPORT UNDERMINES PREMISE OF EXTREMIST MCINNIS BILL
The McInnis bill, like the Bush administration's so-called Healthy Forests initiative, fails to focus scarce federal funding and resources where they would do the most good: in the Community Protection Zone adjacent to at-risk communities. Instead, the bill would continue to allow the Forest Service and Department of Interior to conduct misguided logging projects deep in the backcountry in the name of "fuel reduction." An alternative proposal introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) would require that necessary resources are focused on responsible fuel reduction projects immediately around communities.
“The McInnis bill would open the door to destructive logging practices in remote areas of our National Forests while doing nothing to actually reduce fuels or protect communities,” stated Brian Segee, Southwest Public Lands Director with CBD. “Underneath the deceptive rhetoric of healthy forests, McInnis and the Bush administration are rolling back 30 years of environmental protection.”
The McInnis bill relies heavily on claims of "analysis paralysis" to limit citizen participation and judicial review by cutting the heart out of the nation’s bedrock environmental law, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)the requirement that alternatives to agency actions be considered. However, a report issued by the General Accounting Office (GAO) last week analyzed 762 Forest Service fuel reduction projects proposed during the past two years, of which 95 percent were ready for implementation within the standard 90-day review period [724 of 762]. These findings contradict the very premise on which the McInnis bill and the Bush Administration's plan is based. The latest GAO report supports previous findings from a 2001 GAO report and a 2003 report from researchers at Northern Arizona University.
""This GAO report is yet another study that demonstrates that the very premise on which the McInnis bill and the administration's so-called "Healthy Forests Initiative" is a pack of lies,” stated Segee.
Conservationists support a common sense, science based plan that advocates that fuel reduction projects and "firewise" protections be focused along the boundaries of communities adjacent to forestlands.
Through grants to states and funding for communities, the Community Protection Plan would provide funds for fuel reduction on private, state and tribal landswhich comprise 85 percent of the forested land near vulnerable communitiesas well as on federal lands. In contrast,the McInnis bill does not prioritize projects that would create a crucial defensible space around western communities. Instead it calls forlogging 20 million acres of federal lands, often far from any community, and provides virtually no funding for fuel reduction on non federal lands.
Tim Ingalsbee, a member of the WGA Stockholder Group, which developed the Strategy’s Implementation Plan and Performance Measures, said that claims by Rep. McInnis that his bill would help codify and implement the Western Governors’ Association’s (WGA) Ten-Year Comprehensive Wildfire Strategy is a serious distortion of both the letter and spirit of the WGA Strategy. The WGA strategy states that the WGA Implementation strategy should not alter the responsibilities or statutory authorities of participating Federal or State agencies. Tim Ingalsbee Director of the American Lands Alliance's Western Fire Ecology Center said: "The sweeping changes to federal laws and agency regulations proposed by the McInnis-Walden Bill does not adhere to the WGA Strategy’s core principles, and would thwart community-based collaborative efforts to effectively protect communities from severe wildfires."