Friday, November 21, 2003

House Overwhelmingly Passes Bipartisan Healthy Forests Restoration Act

Legislation to expedite treatment of 20 million acres at high risk of wildfire, disease, insect infestation; measure to boost rural economies by creating jobs to conduct forest thinning

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HR 1904), which was co-authored by Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Colorado Congressman Scott McInnis (R-CO). The legislation passed by a vote of 286 to 140, with 70 Democrats supporting the measure.

"Today's vote is a tremendous victory for our forests, watersheds, critical species habitats and rural communities," said Walden. "This legislation represents the most comprehensive improvement of America’s forest management policies in a generation. The Healthy Forests bill will give our professional foresters the tools they need to help prevent catastrophic wildfires and make concrete improvements to forest health across the nation. Considering the many years we have invested in this effort, today's action is truly a watershed moment."

The Healthy Forests bill will speed hazardous fuels reduction projects on federal forests lands by streamlining the environmental review and appeals process. The measure authorizes $760 million in federal funding to conduct forest thinning projects with a concentration on the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI), municipal watersheds and critical species habitat.

The Healthy Forests Restoration Act does the following:

HR 1904 passed overwhelmingly in the House on May 20, where it was approved by a vote of 256 to 170 with 42 Democratic supporters. The measure stalled for months before its passage by the Senate in late October. Walden was appointed as a "conferee" by the Speaker of the House to represent the House position in conference negotiations with Senate counterparts over the final version of the bill.

President Bush has signaled his eagerness to sign the measure following its final passage in Congress.

Congressman Walden represents the Second Congressional District of Oregon, which includes the 20 counties of central, southern and eastern Oregon. He is a Deputy Whip and member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Committee on Resources.