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Video: Western Communities Need Funds to Protect Against Forest Fire

Fire Legislation Moving through Congress Fails to Protect Communities
May 14, 2003
Washington DC —

With the Western fire season just around the corner, politicians in Washington, DC are gearing up to exploit fear of fire by passing laws friendly to the timber industry – but unfriendly to the very communities threatened by fire. Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO) is leading the charge with legislation called the "Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003". This legislation fails the fundamental test: it ignores common sense solutions that would reduce the risk of fires to communities in favor of logging projects that help only the timber industry. The House could vote on the McInnis bill as early as this Thursday.

There is a better solution

With state and federal budgets strapped for cash, it is imperative that we make every dollar count. This means directing resources where they are most needed and most effective: the Community Protection Zone, an area adjacent to homes and communities. While debate over wildfires has centered on the management of National Forests, an analysis of communities at risk from wildfire shows that roughly 85 percent of the land within the Community Protection Zone is private, state or tribal. To protect homes and communities, federal legislation must prioritize fuel reduction on federal, state and private lands close to communities, not logging projects far from any home.

On Thursday, a coalition of environmental groups will release a package of video clips illustrating the desperate need for funds to pay for brush clearing, road widening and other projects aimed at creating a protective zone around homes and businesses. You'll see people concerned about how they will find the resources they need to protect their communities – resources that the McInnis bill would not provide. This footage will prove invaluable in helping to show the real people who live with forest fires and will help you cover the upcoming debate over how best to protect homes and communities with scarce federal resources.

This VNR and B-roll package contains:



  • Footage of at risk homes in Oregon and Colorado


  • Footage of sound fire protection techniques and a home spared from fire by using these techniques


  • Interviews with Forestry consultant Roy Keene, retired firefighter Dave Calahan, Insurance representative Carol Walker and homeowners from Oregon and Colorado


  • Footage of an ill-advised logging project that won't protect communities

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Satellite Feed Information:



  • Feed Date: Thursday, May 15th, 2003


  • Feed Time: 11:00 AM – 11:15 AM (Eastern)


  • Coordinates: C-band / AMC-2 (formerly GE-2) / Transponder 18


  • Downlink Frequency: 4060 MHz (Horizontal) Audio 6.2 & 6.8


  • Re-Feed Date: Thursday, May 15th, 2003


  • Re-Feed Time: 1:00 PM – 1:15 PM (Eastern)


  • Coordinates: C-band / AMC-2 (formerly GE-2) / Transponder 18


  • Downlink Frequency: 4060 MHz (Horizontal) Audio 6.2 & 6.8

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Background: What would the McInnis bill do?

Fails to Provide Important Home and Community Protection

The bill fails at the single most important factor – providing cash-strapped communities with the resources they need to reduce their risk. There is virtually no requirement to prioritize fuel reduction near homes, on non-federal lands, but the bill allows the funding of logging projects miles from communities under the guise of "fuel reduction."

Cuts the Heart Out of National Environmental Policy Act

Allows agencies to ignore alternative actions that would be less harmful to the forests. It would allow one agency manager to design a single alternative and not require consideration of other possible alternatives. Federal courts have called this consideration of alternatives the very "heart of NEPA." Scientific and public scrutiny on a management action that is already decided overturns the very meaning of scientific review and public involvement.

Undermines America's Independent Judiciary

The bill tries to place these forest projects ahead of any other civil or criminal case before the courts. Courts would also be required to renew preliminary injunctions of logging projects every 45 days and courts would be pressured to issue a final ruling on a case within 100 days.

Tips the Scales of Justice

By requiring judges to give deference to the federal bureaucrats when deciding what relief is granted in a case – including after a project has been found in violation of the law – the McInnis bill attempts to require a court to tip the scales of justice in favor of proponents of a logging project. Analysts call this an astounding and possibly unprecedented change in American legal standards.

Provides More Subsidies For the Timber Industry

In FY 2002, the Forest Service spent $362 million to subsidize commercial logging on National Forests. This bill would authorize an additional $125 million in taxpayer subsidies.

Cuts the Public Out of the Process

Eliminates the current environmental review process, the one opportunity for the public to comment on and review agency decisions, on 250,000 acres, and asks Congress to give the agency carte blanche to develop an undefined process for administrative redress that offers no assurance that the public's concerns will be dealt with equitably. This "blank check" would apply to 20 million acres of public land. It adds a requirement for a public meeting, but it generally serves little purpose, since the bill allows the agency not to consider a single alternative to its original proposal.

Summary

Rather than protecting communities first, the McInnis bill will facilitate logging far away from homes and communities. The bill both fails to ensure that communities are protected from the risk of wildfire and guts longstanding environmental safeguards. Thursday's satellite feed will demonstrate how homeowners across the West are going without much-needed assistance, even as timber companies get the green light for logging projects. Their stories beg the question: why do McInnis and the Bush Administration insist on diverting crucial resources away from at-risk communities?

For story information contact:

Cat Lazaroff, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500 x 213

Chris Mehl, The Wilderness Society, 406-586-1600

Annie Strickler, Sierra Club 202-675-2384

Craig Noble, Natural Resources Defense Council 415-777-0220

Brad Devries, Defenders of Wildlife 202-682-9400 x237

Jennifer Coate, National Environmental Trust 202-887-8855

Anne Martin, American Lands, 509-624-5657

Tiernan Sittenfeld, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, 202-546-9707 x 311

Laurie Cooper, Alaska Coalition, 202-628-1843

Chris Wood, Trout Unlimited, 703-284-9403

Scott Miller, EMS West, 206-374-7795

For hard copy requests and technical information about the satellite feeds contact:

Gordon Productions, 800-818-7763

Contacts

Cat Lazaroff, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500 x 213

We're the lawyers for the environment, and the law is on our side.