California Wildfires Put Pressure on Senate to Pass Bush’s Forest Plan

The wildfires raging through Southern California are turning up the heat on senators to pass President Bush’s “Healthy Forests” plan, which would limit environmental and judicial reviews of many logging projects in national forests with the stated aim of reducing the risk of fire. But enviros say the legislation would open up remote old-growth areas to logging while doing far too little to eliminate fire risks near communities; they argue the bill would do little or nothing to stymie fires like the ones now burning in Southern California, which began in chaparral, not forestland. A version of Bush’s plan was approved by the House in May, but it’s gotten bottled up in the Senate, where Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is cosponsoring an alternative that would focus thinning efforts on forests that are closer to inhabited areas. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators has proposed a compromise plan that lies somewhere between Boxer’s and Bush’s.