Senate Passes Healthy Forests Initiative

Meanwhile, forest management in the rest of the U.S. is set to change, too, with yesterday’s 80-14 Senate vote in favor of a compromise version of President Bush’s Healthy Forests initiative. Although the vote was somewhat influenced by the fires in California, its effect will be felt well beyond the Golden State, on as many as 20 million acres of federal land. The bill will now go into conference with the House, which has already passed similar legislation. Among the chief differences between the two bills: The House version does not say where the logging should take place, whereas the Senate bill mandates that half of all thinning projects be conducted in the “wildland-urban interface” to reduce the risk of fires near residential areas. The Senate version also provides for more judicial discretion over proposed thinning projects. Even with these measures, though, many environmentalists feel that the bill is a gift to the logging industry and an attempt to gag public input about federal land management.