The conference report for the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HR 1904) was passed by the House Friday November 21 by a vote of 286 - 140 and was passed by voice vote in the Senate shortly after. The bill will now head to President Bush for his signature. The bill moved quickly after a compromise between the two versions of the bill was negotiated and was approved by a House/Senate conference committee on Thursday night. Earlier in the week, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation spearheaded a letter signed by 24 leading sportsmen's groups encouraging leaders of the House and Senate to pass a final version of the bill before Congress recesses for the year.
The committee report retains some of the regulatory changes in the House bill requiring National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) assessments on proposed agency actions. NEPA studies would be required only for the proposed agency action within 1.5 miles of an at-risk community; outside the 1.5 mile boundary a NEPA study would be required for the proposed action and one alternative. The report maintains a Senate provision requiring a NEPA study of the proposed action and two alternatives for projects for watershed protection, insect epidemics and endangered species habitat. Temporary injunctions of thinning projects would be limited to 60 days and the courts must consider the short and long-term effects of inaction and give weight to agency scientists. The deal includes House provisions limiting administrative appeals to those who have filed written comments during the planning stages. The conference report also maintains much of the Senate's language protecting existing old-growth stands with minor technical changes. Finally, the compromise maintains the Senate's authorization of $760 million annually for hazardous fuel reduction with at least 50% of those funds targeting projects near at-risk communities.
"This legislation is among the most important reforms to forest policy since Theodore Roosevelt first created the National Forests nearly a century ago. Congress has responded to this mounting human and environmental crisis with a bold and balanced program," commented Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus member and House Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee Chairman Scott McInnis (R-CO). "There's a lot of blood, sweat and toil in this bill. This agreement would have never materialized but for the hard work and good faith of few of us who threw partisanship out the window and focused on the daunting risk facing our forests and communities."
November 17, 2003
Dear Majority Leader Frist, Minority Leader Daschle, Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader Pelosi,
The organizations listed above represent hunters, anglers, natural resource professionals and others that share a strong interest in traditional conservation values and America's fish and wildlife resources. We would like to offer our appreciation for the Congress's passage of the bipartisan Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HR 1904). Now that legislation has passed in the House and Senate, we urge you to agree to hold a House
If legislation is not passed before the recess, vital projects to save our natural resources in high risk fire areas will not move forward before this next fire season. Furthermore, this comprehensive forests health legislation impacts all areas of the United States and their specific forest health needs.
Action is needed immediately. We need to provide the necessary tools to manage our forests and better protect people, property, fish and wildlife habitats and watersheds. We cannot afford another record fire season and quite frankly, neither can the multiple forest resources we have vowed to protect.
Again, we urge you to hold a House-Senate conference on the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HR 1904), and pass a final version of this legislation before you recess.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this important issue.
American Sportfishing Association
Archery Trade Association
Boone and Crockett Club
Bowhunting Preservation Alliance
Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation
Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
nternational Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
International Hunter Education Association
Mississippi River Trust
Mule Deer Foundation
National Rifle Association
National Shooting Sports Foundation
National Trappers Association
National Wild Turkey Federation
New England Forestry Foundation
Quail Unlimited, Inc.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Ruffed Grouse Society
Texas Wildlife Association
The Carbon Fund
The Wildlife Society
U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance
Whitetails Unlimited, Inc.
Wildlife Management Institute