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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Healthy Forests

Air Date: Week of

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As host Steve Curwood reports, a forest health bill recently stalled in the Senate sees movement because of the California wildfires.


CURWOOD: The California wildfires sparked new action in Washington on a controversial plan to thin trees on federal lands, what President Bush calls his Healthy Forests Initiative. The bill had stalled in the Senate. But in the wake of the devastating fires, California Democrat Diane Feinstein urged passage of a compromise.

FEINSTEIN: If ever there’s a case in point as to why we have to spend more time on the ground with forest action rather than debating them here it’s the ten fires in California. They are catastrophic. It’s time for this body and this Congress to act.

CURWOOD: The Senate compromise would spend 760 million dollars a year thinning trees on some 20 million acres considered to be fire risks. Unlike the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives, the Senate emphasizes the thinning of forests near populated areas. Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon says it also includes protections for old growth forests and strengthens the right of citizens to challenge cutting plans, a provision the House seeks to limit.

WYDEN: I think the compromise that we have crafted here reflects a balanced approach. We are not stripping the American people of their rights to be heard with respect to forestry management. And quite the contrary, we protect all avenues of public participation.

CURWOOD: Some environmental groups, including the Wilderness Society, oppose both the House and Senate versions of the bill. They claim the measures would do little to prevent fires and give logging companies too much access to public forests. The two versions of the forest bills will have to be reconciled a conference committee.

[MUSIC: Beck “Peaches & Cream” MIDNITE VULTURES (Geffen - 1999)]



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