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News from the Committee on Resources

For Immediate Release

Contact: Brian Kennedy or Nicol Andrews

(202) 226-9019

Healthy Forests Initiative is Law

"Strongest environmental protection law signed since the Clean Water
Act and the Clear Air Act," says Chairman Pombo

WASHINGTON (December 3) - Marking one of the principal
accomplishments of this Congress and a key tenet of the Bush
Administration's environmental policy, Resources Committee Chairman
Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) joined President Bush for the signing the
Healthy Forests Restoration Act today. Pombo and Senator Dianne
Feinstein (D-CA) have been credited with negotiating the agreement
that garnered final Congressional approval.

"This is the strongest environmental protection bill signed into law
since the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act," Chairman Pombo
said. "The seventy million acres of land classified by the U.S.
Forest Service as 'at extreme risk' of catastrophic fire represent
one of the single greatest threats to our environment today."

"The unnaturally dense, diseased, and insect-infested conditions in
our national forests fuel the catastrophic fires that have burned
over thirty-two million acres since 1997," Pombo continued. "These
fires decimate wildlife and endangered species habitat, contaminate
air quality and critical watersheds, and leave behind a path of
destruction that leads to flooding and mudslides. President Bush's
signature on this bill today will send forest managers to work to
prevent future catastrophic fires, protect the environment and our
communities, and preserve our national forests for future

"I commend the hard work of Chairman Pombo, and Representatives
Goodlatte and McInnis in crafting a strong bi-partisan proposal that
provides us with more tools to do a better job in managing our public
lands and reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire to
communities," said Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton.

"This law also creates a historic paradigm shift in the way federal
courts consider legal challenges to hazardous fuels reduction
projects," Chairman Pombo said. "It adds accountability and
certainty to the appeals process by forcing the courts to weigh the
environmental consequences of inaction when the threat of
catastrophic wildfire looms. This will lessen the incidence of
frivolous environmental litigation that keeps our experts behind
desks dealing with paperwork instead of in the forests where we need

Environmental Devastation

The environmental impact of catastrophic wildfire is astonishing and
long lasting. Colorado's Hayman Fire, which decimated one of the
main watersheds for the City of Denver, burned so hot that it
sterilized the soil. Heavy rain following the fire created massive
mudslides discarding mud and soot into Denver's largest supply of
drinking water. Additionally, the fire annihilated several thousand
acres of endangered species habitat, while also producing the worst
air-pollution conditions in Denver's recorded history.

Other massive fires claimed a similarly irreversible environmental
toll. Oregon's Biscuit fire destroyed 80,000 acres of prime habitat
for the endangered Northern spotted owl, and Arizona's record-setting
Rodeo-Chediski fire caused irreparable damage to the endangered
Mexican spotted owl. Expediting the treatment of 20 million acres of
federal forest land at extreme risk of wildfire (provided for in the
new law), is vital for protecting communities and wildlife.

The law signals a critical step in the effort to clean up America's
forests and prevent catastrophic wildfire, the likes of which most
recently burned more acreage and damaged more property than any other
in California's history. Thousands of acres of forestland and
wildlife habitat were decimated, water supplies and air quality
polluted, and family homes and human lives lost forever as a result
of the fires that consumed California in October.

Chairman Pombo and members of the House Resources Committee will
examine the California fire's damage on Friday (12/5/03) at an
official committee field hearing in Lake Arrowhead, CA. The hearing
will focus on the recovery effort and takes a helicopter tour of the
disaster area.

For more on Healthy Forests, visit
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