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Healthy Forests Passes

Congress OKs Bill To Cut Wildfire Threat

The Senate passed the bill [Healthy Forests Initiative] by a voice vote less than an hour after the House approved it 286-140. The rapid-fire votes came after a three-year impasse on wildfire legislation.

... The measure would authorize $760 million a year for thinning projects on 20 million acres of federal land — a $340 million increase. At least half of all money spent on those projects must be near homes and communities.

... Judges would have to weigh the environmental consequences of inaction and the risk of fire in cases involving thinning projects. Any court order blocking such projects would have to be reconsidered every 60 days.

I'm not thrilled that it passed, but it looks to be about as good a version of Healthy Forests as we were going to get. It kept some of the key Senate provisions, such as the increased funding and requirement to focus on intermix areas. Now let's hope that we get a new president and a changed Congress in 2004 and that they can do a better job -- though if the amount of time it took a Republican-dominated Congress to get Healthy Forests going is any indication, this policy may be in place for quite some time.


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