Good morning. This week, I traveled to Arizona and California to see some
of America's forests and parks, and to talk about my commitment to good stewardship
of these natural treasures.
On Monday, I visited the Coronado National Forest in Arizona, where wildfires
recently consumed thousands of acres of forest and destroyed hundreds of
homes. Nearby, I also saw forests that remained largely intact, thanks to
wise forest management policy. Fire professionals and forest and park rangers
agree, by thinning overgrown forests, we will reduce the risk of catastrophic
fire and restore the health of forest ecosystems.
That is the purpose of my Healthy Forest Initiative. We're cutting through
bureaucratic red tape to complete urgently needed forest-thinning projects.
We are speeding up environmental assessments and consultations required by
current law. And we're expediting the administrative appeals process to resolve
disputes more quickly. By the end of this fiscal year in September, we will
have treated more than 2.6 million acres of overgrowth, more than twice the
acreage that was treated in the year 2000.
Under current law, however, litigation often delays projects, while some
190 million acres of forest remain at high risk of dangerous fires, and nearby
communities remain vulnerable. So I'm asking Congress to reform the review
process for forest projects.
The Healthy Forest Restoration Act would make forest health a high priority
when courts are forced to resolve disputes, and it would place reasonable
time limits on the litigation process after the public has had an opportunity
to comment, and a decision has been made. For the health of America's forests,
and for the safety and economic vitality of our communities, the Congress
must complete work on this bill. The House has passed the legislation and
now the Senate must act.
As we protect America's forests, we must also preserve the beauty of America's
nearly 80 million acres of national park land. On Friday, I visited the Santa
Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Southern California. It is one
of America's 388 national park areas, including historic sites, and battlefields,
recreation areas, monuments, and shores. Every one of them is a point of
pride for the nation and for local communities.
Yet in the past not all of these sites have been given the attention they
require. Some of our national park areas are not in good condition. And for
many years, government did not even have the basic information about which
places were most in need of repair or restoration. To meet this challenge,
I pledge to spend $4.9 billion, over five years, on needed work and maintenance
in our national park areas.
With the support of Congress, we're keeping that commitment. In the first
two years of my administration, Congress provided nearly $1.8 billion for
park maintenance and roads. And my request for the next three budgets will
bring total funding for park maintenance and roads to more than $5 billion
over five years.
With this funding, we've already undertaken approximately 900 park maintenance
projects. This year, the Park Service is working on 500 more projects. And
nearly 400 more are planned for next year. As we attend to needed repairs,
we're also putting in place a new system of inventory and assessment to assure
that America's parks stay in good condition. We have set a new course for
our national parks, with better management and renewed investment in the
care and protection. After all, the parks belong to the people.
I look forward to traveling next week to Oregon and Washington state, and
I will be carrying the same message: Our system of national parks and forests
is a trust given to every generation of Americans. By practicing good management
and being faithful stewards of the land, our generation can show that we're
worthy of that trust.