The Healthy Forest Initiative:
Legislative and Regulatory Update
Page last updated 12/11/03
What is the Healthy Forest Initiative?
Legislative Action: the Healthy Forest Restoration Act
SAF's Position on the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of
What's in the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003?
What is the Healthy Forest Initiative?
In August 2002, President Bush announced a new initiative to reduce the
threat of catastrophic wildfires, improve the health of our nation's forests,
and strengthen communities. The President's plan proposed to reduce unnecessary
regulatory processes that hinder active forest management and to work
with Congress to provide legislation to efficiently reduce hazardous fuels
and restore burned areas. The President proposed actions to:
1) Facilitate timely reviews of forest health restoration and rehabilitation
2) Amend rules for project appeals to hasten process of reviewing vital
forest health projects
3) Improve Endangered Species Act processes to expedite decisions
4) Establish improved processes for environmental assessments
The President's initiative resulted in the following regulatory changes:
1. USFS and USDOI Categorical Exclusions for certain Wildfire Management
and Restorations projects.
2. USFS Regulations on Notice, Comment, and Appeal of Projects.
3. BLM Regulations on Appeals of Wildfire Management Decisions.
4. USFS Timber Harvesting Categorical Exclusions
5. Joint Counterpart Regulations on ESA Section 7 consultation for projects
that implement the National Fire Plan.
For more information on the President's initiative click here.
HFI and the National Fire Plan:
The Healthy Forest Initiative is intended to support the 10-Year Comprehensive
Strategy of the National Fire Plan. Developed in 2000, The National Fire
Plan is a report to the President recommending how to:
1) Respond to severe, ongoing fire activity
2) Reduce impacts of fires on rural communities and the environment
3) Ensure sufficient firefighting resources in the future
In 2001, a broad collaborative group representing federal agencies, states,
local governments, conservation and commodity groups, and tribal interests
gathered to determine a long-term strategy for wildland fire management
developed the 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy. The strategy supports four
2) Hazardous Fuels Reduction
3) Community Assistance
Implementing the 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy- Accomplishments in 2002:
Firefighting enhancements, including improvements to workforce
development, training, and equipment.
Firefighters stopped 99% of the 73,000 wildfires reported.
Rehabilitation projects were accomplished in 20 states on 1.3
In addition, 130 burned area emergency stabilization projects
were completed with over $70 million funded by the National Fire Plan.
The federal wildland fire management agencies treated 2.26 million
acres of hazardous fuels on federal and adjacent lands.
Thousands of communities were assisted with a wide range of activities
including training and equipping fire fighters, fire prevention and mitigation,
information dissemination and education, fuel mitigation treatments, and
homeowner and community hazard mitigation projects.
Agency staffs developed a range of joint accountability measures including
budget and financial systems, reports, and oversight reviews for assessing
and evaluation program accomplishments.
To learn more about the strategy's accomplishments click
To learn more about the National Fire Plan and it's 10-Year Comprehensive
For SAF's position statement on Wildfire Management click
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Legislative Action Update: the Healthy Forest
Restoration Act of 2003 (HR 1904)
President Bush signed the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003
(HR 1904) on December 3, 2003. To read the President's remarks at the
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SAF's Position on the Healthy Forest Restoration
Act of 2003
For SAF's comments on the passage of the Healthy Forest Restoration
To view other SAF statements on forest management and health click
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What's In the Healthy Forest Restoration Act
Hazardous Fuels Reduction Projects
Public Involvement, Appeals, Judicial Review
Protecting and improving watersheds
Insect and Disease Research and Assessment
Early Warning System
Hazardous Fuels Reduction Projects:
- Designed to address high fuel loads on public and private lands
to mitigate risks of wildfire, insects, disease, and invasive species.
- Allows Communities to recommend where projects should take place
through development of a community wildfire protection plan. Gives
funding priority to those communities who have develop this plan or
acted proactively to address risks.
- Allows treatment of up to 20 million acres of federal land using
the expedited procedures in the legislation.
- Requires that 50% of the funds provided for these fuels reduction
projects be expended in the WUI as defined in this bill, with local
- Defines WUI as an area:
1) within or next to a community as outlined in a community
wildfire protection plan,
2) within ½ mile of an at-risk community,
3) within 11/2 miles with certain attributes of areas at high risk,
4) adjacent to an evacuation route for an at-risk community
- Contains expedited NEPA analysis for projects both within and outside
the wildland-urban interface that address threats of wildfire, insect,
- Prohibits these hazardous fuels reduction projects in Wilderness
Areas, WSA, and lands on which removal of vegetation if prohibited
by Congress or Administrative measures including forest plans.
- Requires projects to "maintain or contribute towards the restoration
of" old growth stands as they existed prior to fire suppression
efforts This is to be done through site specific decision-making,
and when necessary, site-specific plan amendments.
- Contains provisions for the retention of large trees outside existing
old growth stands to the extent that this does not interfere with
meeting the goals of this legislation.
- Includes monitoring provisions with an option for multi-party monitoring
and adaptive management.
- Authorizes $760 million for fuels reduction projects using the
provisions in this bill and grants to States, local governments, Indian
tribes and other eligible recipients.
Public Involvement, Appeals, Judicial Review:
- Includes provisions for public participation and collaboration
in the preparation of a project, consistent with the 10-Year Implementation
- Includes opportunities for public comment and public meetings.
- Creates a pre-decisional administrative review process for Forest
Service projects completed using the processes in this legislation.
- Limits length of preliminary injunctions and stays pending appeal
to 60 days, with options for renewal.
- Requires the courts to balance the short term and the long term
effects of action vs. inaction.
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- Authorizes $54 million for research related to biomass utilization.
- Authorizes $5 million for each FY 2004-2008 for a program to accelerate
the use of biomass and small diameter materials through community
and small-scale business enterprises.
Protecting and Improving Watersheds:
- Authorizes the FS and CSREES to provide technical, financial, and
related assistance to States and Extension agents at universities
to apply BMPs and address watershed issues on non-federal lands.
- Authorizes $15 million for each FY 2004-2008 for Watershed Forestry
- Authorizes $2.5 million for each FY 2004-2008 for Tribal Watershed
Forestry Assistance. Authorizes the FS working with the tribal governments
to provide technical, financial, and related assistance to apply tribal
forestry BMPs and address watershed issues on tribal lands.
Insect and Disease Research and Assessment:
- Allows for research and assessment of insect and disease problems.
- Allows such projects to be categorically excluded from further
NEPA analysis to enable researchers to conduct timely research treatments
that will test ways to address the insect and disease problems.
- Creates the Healthy Forests Reserve Program to protect and restore
endangered species habitat, promote carbon sequestration, and improve
biodiversity on up to 2 million acres of private lands.
- Authorizes $25 million for FY 2004 and such sums as necessary for
Early Warning System:
- Creates a Forest Stands Inventory and Monitoring Program to improve
the detection of and response to environmental threats. Creates an
early warning system for potential catastrophic threats to forests.
- Authorizes $5 million for each FY 2004-2008.
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