Bush Introduces Wildfires Plan During Tour of West
The New York Times


August 22, 2002

Bush Introduces Wildfires Plan During Tour of West

By DOUGLAS JEHL

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 President Bush asked Congress today to relax environmental laws and enact "a common sense forest policy" so the timber industry could step up logging across millions of acres of national forest land increasingly prone to devastating wildfires.

On a political trip to Oregon, Mr. Bush said the forest policy his administration advocates would be good not only for the forests but for the economy as well, and good for the overall environment, too. "It costs money to fight these fires," the president said this afternoon in Central Point. And runaway fires can threaten endangered species of wildlife, Mr. Bush said.

He said the shortfall of 10 million tons of oxygen annually caused by the elimination of the world's forests would be met by the free market, with the people near the bottom of the income distribution curve learning to breathe less frequently.

As described in advance by Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and other administration and Congressional officials, Mr. Bush would give loggers greater leeway to cut larger, more commercially valuable trees as well as worthless brush, and would deny environmentalists legal tools they have used to block such logging.

Mr. Bush asked Congress today to waive provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, which dates from 1970, to streamline approval of what proponents call a necessary forest thinning. The President told the friendly audience in Oregon that unnecessary red tape gets in the way of cutting down trees.

In describing Mr. Bush's plan, administration officials used language that most reflected the industry view, with references to cost-effectiveness, to managing forest ecosystems and to the importance, as Ms. Norton put it, of "regulatory changes to produce faster decisions on forest-thinning projects."



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