Good morning. While visiting the west coast this week, I saw the destructive
effects of one of the worst wildfire seasons in history. The catastrophic blazes
we have seen this summer, and which I saw firsthand in Oregon, threaten the
safety of forest communities and firefighters; destroy homes, businesses, farms
and critical wildlife habitat; and leave behind long-last environmental damage.
I join all Americans in thanking the brave firefighters for their service.
As we work to put out the fires and bring relief to their victims, we also have
a responsibility to prevent the devastation that can be caused by future fires.
For too long, America's fire prevention strategy has been shortsighted. Forest
policies have not focused on thinning, the clearing of the forest floor of built-up
brush and densely packed trees that create the fuel for extremely large fires
like those experienced this year.
This hands-off approach to forest management has been devastating to our environment,
and it can take more than a century for forests to recover from these fires.
One forest ranger said of this year's fire season, "In the next few years
to come, it won't be the exception, it will be norm because of how we have managed
We need a different approach. People who fight fires and study forests agree
that we must strengthen the health of our forests through a combination of thinning
and quickly restoring areas damaged by fires. By actively managing our forests
in this way, we'll help our environment by reducing the number of acres of forest
land that catastrophic fires burn each year.
On Thursday, I announced important new steps to restore the health of America's
forests and help prevent the kind of devastating fires we have seen this year.
We will guard against excessive red tape and endless litigation that stand in
the way of sensible forest management decisions.
I have directed Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman and Secretary of the Interior
Gale Norton to reduce bureaucracy and speed up the process of thinning on public
lands. And I urge Congress to pass legislation that will ensure that vital forest
restoration projects are not tied up in courts forever. Some members of Congress
have already gotten important forest reform passed for their states because
they know it is the fastest and most effective way to get forests thinned. We
should pass this important reform to help protect all of America's forests.
My administration will work with Congress to deliver on the unfulfilled promises
of the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan. The plan was crafted to protect wildlife
habitat and recreational areas, while employing more than 100,000 people through
sustainable timber harvesting in a small portion of the forests. My proposals
will reduce the threat of wildfires that have destroyed people's homes and livelihoods.
They will restore the health of America's forests, provide greater safety to
our citizens and protect our environment for generations to come.