Forest Legislation - U.S. Land Use Conversion
This article reflects recent (post 2003) forest legislation in the United States, and the African American Environmental Association's (AAEA) involvement in environmental policy making. The African American Environmental Association is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to protecting the environment, enhancing human, animal and plant ecologies, promoting the efficient use of natural resources and increasing African American participation in the environmental movement. The AAEA's active participation in these the U.S.'s land-use conversion policies has generated environmental and politically-based resolutions, as stated below.
 Roadless Area Conservation Rule
- Established in 2001, by President Clinton.
The Roadless Rule was enacted with the intent of preventing access to pristine forest lands. The rule protects about 60 million acres of national forests from logging, mining,drilling and road development.Source:
 H.R. 1904 - Healthy Forest Restoration Act
- Approved Tuesday March 20, 2003, by the House of Representatives 256-170 vote.
- Sponsored by Scott McInnis (R-CO3)
The Healthy Forest Initiative proposes to improve the capacity of the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to plan and conduct hazardous fuels reduction projects on National Forest System lands and Bureau of Land Management lands aimed at protecting communities, watersheds, and certain other at-risk lands from catastrophic wildfire, to enhance efforts to protect watersheds and address threats to forest and rangeland health, including catastrophic wildfire, across the landscape, and for other purposes. Source: []
- Approved October 30, 2003, by Senate vote 80-14.
- Cosponsored in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
The legislation, a modified version of President Bush's Healthy Forest Initiative, calls for expedited procedures for tree thinning on 20 million acres of federal forest threatened by fire.
- President Bush signed HR 1904 into law on Wednesday, Dec 21, 2003.
- The legislation allows thinning and the removal of debris from up to 20 million acres of national forests.
The measure is designed to accelerate forest-thinning to prevent major wildfires. The bill is based on Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative, although it was substantially modified over the course of the year to win bipartisan support. It reduces the number of environmental reviews and accelerates judicial reviews of forest thinning projects when legal challenges are filed. Source: 
 AAEA - H.R. 1904 Opposition & Concerns
"AAEA supports the Healthy Forests Initiative but we are concerned about the precedent set by weakening the environmental assessment provision included in the bill. However, we have to do something about forest management because millions of acres of forests are being devastated annually by wildfires."
"We have lost millions of acres of forest lands to summer wild fires. People's lives are threatened by out of control fires and they are losing their homes. President Bush wants to relax environmental regulations so that timber firms can harvest more trees to prevent overgrowth and environmentalists fear relaxation of regulations will lead to clear cutting of entire mountainside forests, especially old growth public lands trees, by unscrupulous corporations."(African American Environmentalist Association.org)Source: []
 H.R. 1904, SEC. 104. Environmental Analysis
(b) DISCRETIONARY AUTHORITY TO ELIMINATE ALTERNATIVES- In the case of an authorized hazardous fuels reduction project, the Secretary concerned is not required to study, develop, or describe any alternative to the proposed agency action in the environmental assessment or environmental impact statement prepared for the proposed agency action pursuant to section 102(2) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4332(2)). Source: []
 AAEA Recommendations
- Significantly increase the federal budget to provide adequate funds to manage our forests and controlled burns
- Conduct more controlled burns in early spring and late fall
- Educate homeowners to ensure that houses are built with fire-resistant materials and that backyards are kept clear of flammable vegetation
- Educate the public to accept the fact that some of these fires will get out of control
"Additional funds will also assist in providing more resources to fight super wildfires with better-managed backfires--intentional burning to control wildfires. The overall result will, however, lead to fewer and smaller catastrophic wildfires. If we do not spend the money to manage and prevent these wildfires, we will spend more money and lose more lives fighting these fires once they are out of control." (African American Environmentalist Association.org)Source: []
 S. 1453 - Forestry and Community Assistance Act of 2003
The following bill is supported by the AAEA.
- Sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA).
Designed to protect communities and property from fire and leave intact long-established environmental, procedural and legal safeguards.
--Hoffster 22:01, 22 October 2007 (PDT)