Republican News

May 14 2003



May 14, 2003 Domenici Cites GAO Report as Further Evidence of Need for Proactive Forest Management Reaffirms forest legislation as a top priority Washington, D.C. – A GAO report released today shows that appeals from special interest groups needlessly delay federal efforts to prevent wildfires in dry national forests. These appeals mean that it takes longer to remove wildfire hazards from Forest Service land than it does to remove similar threats from national parks, wildlife refuges and national monuments. Chairman Domenici’s statement: “This report makes it clear that if we don’t streamline the Forest Service appeals process we will continue to lose millions of acres each year to devastating wildfires like the ones that scorched parts of New Mexico and a dozen other western states in recent years. “Senator Craig and I will file legislation that addresses the problem of administrative gridlock in the Forest Service as well as other impediments to the healthy and proactive management of our forests. The Energy Committee, which I chair, has already held hearings on this problem. Earlier this year, I announced that forest legislation is one of my top priorities. We’ve lost millions of acres, thousands of homes and countless fish and wildlife to fire in recent years. Congress must act swiftly and effectively to protect our environment from future devastation. The American people will no longer tolerate management by wildfire” The U.S. Forest Service has a unique appeals process that hampers efforts to prevent devastating wildfire, according to a 37-page GAO report requested last year by several Senate and House members. The report analyzes all administrative appeals over the last two years to proposed Forest Service thinning projects. More than half of the proposed projects have been appealed, mostly by environmental groups. The appeals cause delays of months and even years that have left nearly 1 million acres of dry forests at risk for devastating fire. The GAO report shows that environmental groups even appeal thinning projects near communities. These projects are intended to protect homes and businesses near forest lands. Environmental groups have appealed 84 of 163 such projects — 52 percent of them – in the last two years. Nationally, the following seven organizations filed more than 20 administrative appeals in the two years analyzed by the GAO: The Alliance for Wild Rockies, Ecology Center, Forest Conservation Council, Lands Council, National Forest Protection Alliance, Oregon Natural Resources Council, and the Sierra Club. Of the 432 appeals filed against the 180 projects, private individuals filed only 48 appeals – 11% of the overall total. Only 10 percent of the appeals prevail, the report showed. The remaining 90 percent result in unnecessary costs and delays. These delays leave dry forests vulnerable to fire. ###