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From: Paul Williams
To: All
Date: 2003-08-26 22:08:20
Subject: Press Release (0308214) for Thu, 2003 Aug 21

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 21, 2003

President Discusses Healthy Forests in Oregon



August 21, 2003

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

ON THE HEALTHY FORESTS INITIATIVE

Camp Sherman, Oregon

Redmond, Oregon

3:23 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please be seated. Thank you. You know you're in a
pretty good country when you see a lot of cowboy hats out in the crowd --
(laughter and applause) -- and when you got horses guarding the perimeter.
(Applause.)

Thank you for your hospitality. It is like home, except the temperature
seems to be a little cooler, a little more hospitable. But thanks for your
hospitality. I'm thrilled to be in Deschutes County, Oregon. (Applause.)
I've been planning to come for a while. I'm sad that I had to come to see
another forest fire.

We just toured two fires that are burning in the area. It's hard to
describe to our fellow citizen what it means to see a fire like we saw.
It's the holocaust, it's devastating. We saw the big flames jumping from
treetop to treetop, which reminds me about the brave men and women, what
they have to face when they go in to fight the fires. I first want to start
by thanking those who put their lives at risk to protect our communities,
to protect our people, to protect our national treasures, the U.S. forests.
I appreciate our firefighters. (Applause.) All those firefighters know
something that I've come to realize, that we can thin our forests, that we
can use common-sense policy to make the fires burn less hot and protect our
forests. (Applause.)

And that's what I want to talk about here. Before I do so, I want to thank
Secretary Ann Veneman, Secretary Gale Norton for doing a fine job on behalf
of all Americans. I want you to notice that these two ladies are from the
West. (Applause.) I appreciate Dale Bosworth, who's the Chief of the U.S.
Forest Service. I also want to thank Leslie Weldon -- where are you,
Leslie? Where? Oh, hi, Leslie. Thank you. (Applause.) Leslie is the forest
supervisor of the Deschutes National Forest. She was our tour guide. She is
a dedicated professional, just like the people she works with from the U.S.
Forest Service. I want to thank those who work for the U.S. Forest Service,
for the BLM, for serving your nation in the communities in which you life.
I appreciate the hard work you put in. I appreciate your dedication to the
preservation and conservation of one of the greatest assets the United
States has, which is our land and or forests. (Applause.)

I appreciate your Governor, Governor Kulongoski, who came with me today.
I'm honored that he is here. It should say loud and clear to everybody that
preserving and protecting our forests is not a political issue, it is not a
partisan issue, it is a practical issue that we must come together and
solve. (Applause.) So I'm very honored that the Governor is here.

I'm also honored to be with two members of the legislative branch of our
government in Washington, D.C. -- a great United States Senator, Gordon
Smith, and a great Congressman, Greg Walden. (Applause.) I appreciate being
able to work with these two fine men. You've just got to know they
represent your interests well. They're constantly talking about the people
of Oregon. Every time I'm around them they bring you up. (Applause.) They
say, let's have some common-sense policy in Washington, D.C., to help
people help themselves in our state. That's all we want. We just want the
federal government to respond in a responsible way. And that's what we're
here to talk about, how best to be able to do that.

I don't know if you know this, but today are the Waldens' 21st anniversary.
Congratulations to you both. (Applause.) Eileen must be a patient soul.
(Laughter.) Kind of like Laura. We both married above ourselves,
Congressman. (Laughter.)

Laura sends her love and her best, by the way. She's still in Texas and
wasn't able to travel today, but I wish she could come and see how
beautiful this country is. See, we both grew up in the desert of west
Texas. This is really a beautiful part of the world.

I appreciate the mayors who are here today -- Mayor Unger of Redmond, Mayor
Teater of Bend, Mayor Allen, Mayor Uffelman, Mayor Elliott. I thank the
mayors and the local authorities who have taken time to come and give me a
chance to visit with you. I appreciate your service to your communities. I
think mayor is a little tougher than being President because you've got to
make sure the pot holes are all full and the garbage is collected.
(Laughter.)

I appreciate Garland Brunoe who is the Chairman of the Confederated Tribes
of the Warm Springs, and I want to thank all the tribal members who are
here with us today, as well. (Applause.)

Today, when I landed, I had the honor of meeting a fellow named Curtis
Hardy. Curtis is sitting right there. The interesting thing about Curtis is
he's volunteered 5,000 hours over the last 10 years to the Deschutes
National Forest. I asked Leslie if he was doing any good. (Laughter.) She
said, absolutely. She says, it's people like Curtis Hardy* that make her
job easier.

It's very important for people to know that they can take time out of their
lives, that they care about their beautiful surroundings, and make a
positive, significant difference. Curtis is doing that. Curtis, thank you
for setting such a good example and I appreciate your service. (Applause.)

Ann was right, I was here a year ago. Unfortunately, when I came a year
ago, I witnessed the effects of fires. I saw the Biscuit fire and the
Squires Peak fire. Both of them are devastating forest fires. They
destroyed buildings and homes, changed lives, destroyed natural resources.

The Biscuit fire alone scorched nearly half-a-million acres, cost more than
$150 million and burned down over a dozen homes. You know, any time our
community has faced the devastation of wildfire, it really does test the
character of the people. For those whose lives have been deeply affected,
and probably will be affected by this fire, we send our sympathies and we
wish God's blessings on their families.

The federal government can help. We will give grants, FEMA grants, all the
SBA loans, the different things that happen when there's an emergency. I
can assure you Gordon and Greg will be all over us to make sure we
appropriate the proper to spend. (Applause.)

But the government has got to do more than just spend money. We'll spend
it, but we've got to effect wise policy, it seems like to me. I mean, how
often -- we write checks a lot on fire- fighting, and we'll continue to do
that. But it seems like to me we ought to put a strategy in place to reduce
the amount of money that we have to spend on emergency basis by managing
our forests in a better, more common-sensical way. (Applause.)

The forest policy, the conditions of our forests didn't happen overnight.
The experts who know something about forests will tell you that the
condition, the overgrown and unhealthy condition of a lot of our forestland
happened over a century. It's taken a while for this situation to evolve.
It may interest you to know that today there's 190 million acres of forests
and woodlands around the country which are vulnerable to catastrophic fire
because of brush and small trees that have been collecting for literally
decades. A problem that has taken a long time to develop is going to take a
long time to solve. So what we're going to talk about today is the
beginnings of a solution. But we've got to get after it now. We have a
problem in Oregon and around our country that we must start solving.

You see, the undergrowth issue, the problem of too much undergrowth creates
the conditions for unbelievably hot fires. These forest firefighters will
tell you that these hot fires that literally explode the big trees can be
somewhat mitigated by clearing out the undergrowth. And by the way, the
undergrowth chokes off nutrients from older trees. It makes our forests
more succeptable to disease. We got a problem. It's time to deal with the
problem. And that's what we're going to talk about.

Before I talk about the solutions, I do want people to understand that if
you are concerned about the endangered species, then you need to be
concerned about catastrophic fire. Fires destroy the animals which,
obviously, live amidst the raging fire. If your concerned about old growth,
large stands of timber, then you better be worried about the conditions
that create devastating fires. The worst thing that can happen to old
stands of timber is these fires. They destroy the big trees. They're so
explosive in nature that hardly any tree can survive.

We saw that with our own eyes, choppering in here. Thinning underbrush
makes sense, makes sense to save our species, it makes sense -- of animals
-- it makes sense to save the big stands of trees.

You know, what I'm telling you about a strategy to deal with our forests to
make them healthy is not something that was invented in Washington, D.C.
It's the collective wisdom of scientists, wildlife biologists, forestry
professionals, and as importantly, the men and women who risk their life on
an annual basis to fight fires. That's who I've been listening to.
(Applause.)

Our administration is taking their advice. Congress needs to take their
advice. Congress needs to listen to the -- (applause.) So, having listened,
and realized that we've got a problem, I've proposed a healthy forest
initiative. And I proposed it right here in Oregon one year ago. At my
direction, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture
and the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, Connaughton, who
is here with us today, on my staff -- these three -- that's why they're
here, by the way. I want you to look at them. They are responsible for
putting this initiative into place.

Their job is to cut through bureaucratic red tape to complete urgently
needed thinning projects. That was the first task I gave them. We're going
to focus on areas where thinning is the most critical, where the damage can
be most severe by -- caused by fires. We're working with the Western
Governors Association to determine projects of the highest priority in each
state. In other words, we're setting priorities, and we're getting after
it. (Applause.)

We are speeding up the process of environmental assessments and
consolations required by law. Look, we want people to have input. If
somebody has got a different point of view, we need to hear it. This is
America. We expect to hear people's different points of view in this
country. But we want people to understand that we're talking about the
health of our forests, and if there's a high priority, we need to get after
it before the forests burn and people lose life. (Applause.)

We're expediting the administrative appeals process so that disputes over
thinning projects are resolved more quickly. We want to hear people. We
want them to have a point of view. We want to save our forests, too. That's
what we want to do here in America. We want to deal with the problem.
Nobody's to blame. The problem has existed for years. Now let us be the
ones who start solving the problem. And that's what I'm going to ask
Congress to do when they come back.

Our approach relies on the experience and judgment and hard work of local
people. Metolius Conservation Area is such an example. Leslie was
describing it to me. The Friends of Metolius, a conservation group, came to
the forest service with an interesting idea. What I'm about to tell you is
called a collaborative effort to do some common-sense things in our forests
to protect them and protect the communities around the forests.

So these good folks came and said, look, why don't we set up some sample
plots in the Deschutes Forest to be treated with thinning and burning and
mowing, and to leave some of the plots untreated, so people can see the
difference between a treated plot and an untreated plot, to kind of break
through the myths, the mythology, the propaganda of what it means to
protect our forests.

And the Forest Service agreed, and they worked together, and they shared
costs, and thousands have now come and have seen good forest management
practices in place. They've seen what is possible to do. And I want to
thank the folks for working hard in a collaborative way, to share your
wisdom and your hard work, to help educate our fellow citizens about the
realities of what we're talking about when it comes to maintaining a
healthy forest.

Bill Anthony is not with us today -- I think he's fighting the fires --
deserves a lot of credit for this program, as does Leslie. They're in the
process, by the way, of treating 12,500 acres -- additional 12,500 acres. I
want to thank the Friends of Metolius, I want to thank the local citizenry
here, for doing what is right.

Ranger Bill says community participation has been critical to the success
of the project, and that's the kind of initiatives we like and want. We
want initiatives where the federal government works closely with the state
government, with community groups, conservation groups, local people, in
order to do what is right for our country and our states.

You see, there's too much confrontation when it comes to environmental
policy. There's too much zero-sum thinking. What we need is cooperation,
not confrontation. (Applause.)

I appreciate the stewardship contracting programs that will be going on. I
hope you do, as well. You see, the thinning projects that are going to go
forward should help some of these local communities that hurt. And by the
way, I fully understand Oregon's unemployment issue. It's the highest in
the nation. I'm sorry it's the way it is. There are some things we can do
to help people. So we want people working. We want people to have food on
the table. (Applause.)

Stewardship contracting -- what that means is is that private organizations
or businesses will be able to do the necessary thinning, and they'll be
able to remove small trees and undergrowth, and they'll be able to keep
part of what they remove as partial payment. That seems to make sense to
me.

First of all, somebody's working. It seems like the taxpayers come out
okay. After all, if you're able to keep some of the thinning, which
protects our forests, as part of the payment, it's a -- takes a little load
off the taxpayer. The local community's tax base will get better when
somebody spends the money they make from thinning the projects, and the
forests are more healthy. Stewardship contracting makes sense. It's an
integral part of our plan. (Applause.)

I'll give you a quick report. The healthy forest initiative is producing
results. Last year we treated 2.25 million acres of overgrown forests. By
the end of the fiscal year in September, we will have treated more than 2.6
million acres of forest and rangeland. We're slowly but surely getting
after it, as we say in Crawford, Texas. We're beginning to deal with the
problem that we've -- that will help make the country, by solving the
problem, a better place.

This year alone, we'll spend more than $43 million of forest treatment
projects here in the state of Oregon. And as we go forward with the healthy
forest initiative, if we can ever get it authorized by Congress, I look
forward to working with the appropriators, working with Gordon and Greg, to
get the projects funded. We just don't want the initiative authorized, we
want the initiative funded so we can solve the problem. (Applause.)

But the initiative I've laid out is one step. Congress needs to act. People
ought to understand up there in Washington that -- or over there in
Washington, way over there in Washington -- (laughter) -- that current law
makes it too difficult to expedite the thinning of forests because it
allows for the litigation process to delay progress and projects for years
and years. (Applause.) That's a problem. And those delays, the endless
litigation delays, endanger the health of our forests and the safety of too
many of our communities. (Applause.)

So I've asked Congress to fix the problem. Gordon and Greg are working hard
to fix the problem. The law, called the Healthy Forest Restoration Act,
would bring government communities together to select high-priority
projects relevant to local needs. In other words, it's part of the
prioritization of what I just described to you earlier.

It would also direct courts to consider the long-term threats to forest
health that could result if any projects are delayed. In other words, it
says, we have a national goal to protect our -- one of our finest assets,
and that is our forests. And therefore, you -- Mr. Judge, make sure you
understand that a healthy forest is a part of your consideration when
you're listening to these appeals.

The legislation makes forest health the priority, a high priority, when
courts are forced to resolve disputes. And it places reasonable time limits
on litigation after the public has had an opportunity to comment and a
decision has been made. Congress must move forward with this bill. It's a
good, common-sense piece of legislation that will make our forests more
healthy, that will protect old-growth stands, that will make it more likely
endangered species will exist, that will protect our communities, that will
make it easier for people to enjoy living on the edges of our national
forests.

The House of Representatives passed the bill -- and I appreciate your good
work, Greg. The Agriculture Committee has agreed on a bill. (Applause.) The
Agriculture Committee agreed on a bill, and when the Senate returns, they
need to pass the healthy forest Legislation and get it to my desk.
(Applause.)

The administration is also working to help communities in this region by
implementing the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan. This plan was designed to
protect wildlife and to support a viable woods products industry in the
Northwest. It was designed, obviously, before I arrived in Washington. It's
a good plan. It makes a lot of sense. It was a plan forged by
conservationists, industry professionals, government officials, who came
together to decide on a reasonable target for sustainable timber harvesting
on a small portion of our forests. The plan calls for harvesting of about a
billion board foot of timber per year. It will strengthen our communities,
it will help rural America, it will help our homebuilders. It makes sense.
It was a promise made to the people of the Northwest; it's a promise I
intend to work with the federal government to keep. (Applause.)

Good forest policy can be the difference between lives surrounded by
natural beauty or natural disaster. And we're watching a natural disaster
unfold right here in this part of the world. And we can do a better job
protecting our assets. We can do a better job protecting people in the
communities. Now it's time for people who represent different parts of the
country to come together to see the devastation that takes place out West
on an annual basis, and allow these good people out West to manage their
assets in a way that will not only be able to say, we've done a job
well-done for future generations, but we're protecting something that we
hold dear, and that is the forestlands of America.

Before I finish, I do want to talk about another conservation issue that
affects the people of the West Coast, and that's energy reliability. First,
I thought our government response to the power outage out East and the
Midwest was a good response. You know, after September the 11th, we came
together in a way to be able to better deal with emergencies that affected
America. The federal government, the state government, the local
governments all work in a very close way, and the communications was good.
The system survived. The system responded well. We had a lot of good people
who didn't panic and dealt with the problem in a very professional way. And
I want to thank our citizens out East and up in the Midwest for doing such
a fine job of responding to a very difficult situation, and being
respectful for their neighbor.

And yesterday, Secretary of Energy Abraham and the Canadian Minister of
Natural Resources met in Detroit. It's the joint effort to find out what
went wrong. We're going to try to find out as quickly as we can exactly
what caused the rolling blackout.

But this rolling blackout and the problem we've got here with hydropower,
the problem in California recently, should say loud and clear to members of
the legislative branch of government that we've got an energy issue that we
need to solve in America.

I called together a -- put the task force together and made 105
recommendations for our government to look at about a comprehensive
national energy plan, one that encourages conservation, one that encourages
energy efficiency, one that realizes that we've got to be less dependent on
foreign sources of energy. And part of that was to recognize that our
infrastructure -- the electricity infrastructure needs to be modernized.

We've taken some action without laws passed by the legislative branch. For
example, there's a bottleneck that plagued California for years -- in other
words, electricity wasn't able to move as freely from south to north, north
to south, as we wanted. And we're now permitting line so that that
bottleneck can be removed. And the Department of Energy is working with the
private sector to get the lines up and running so we can move more
electricity.

And we've been dealing with the shortage of hydropower. As you know, you've
got an issue in the -- Basin and we've been trying to come up with
reasonable policy so that people can farm the land and fish can live at the
same time. (Applause.) But Congress needs to act. I don't know if you know
this or not, but for many years the reliability of electricity in America
depended on companies observing voluntary standards to prevent blackouts. I
don't think those standards ought to be voluntary, I think they ought to be
mandatory. And if there's not reliability back up for electricity, there
ought to be a serious consequence for somebody who misuses the public
trust. And Congress needs to have that in the law. (Applause.)

We ought to authorize the federal government to step in as last resort to
put up new power lines where it best serves the national interest. We ought
to make investment -- new investment in a transmission of electricity
easier to make. We've got some old laws that were passed a long time ago
that make it harder for people to invest in new electricity lines, new
transmission lines. That doesn't make any sense. If we've got a problem,
let's deal with it.

The law that passed out of the House of Representatives deals with it. I'm
confident -- and the Senate passed a bill -- in other words, out of the two
bodies, they need to get together. I talked to Pete Dominici, the Senator
from New Mexico. I talked to Bill Tauzin, the Chairman from Louisiana. They
both agreed on what I've just described to you as necessary in a new bill,
so that we can say we solved the problem, we're modernizing our electricity
system so the people of America don't have their lives disrupted like what
happened during the rolling blackout that took place last week.

So we're going to get us a good energy bill. We need an energy bill, an
energy strategy, and we need the will to implement it. (Applause.)

Let me conclude by telling you that I'm incredibly proud of our country.
You know, we've been through a lot. We've been through a recession. You're
still in it here in Oregon. We had these people attack us because of what
we stand for. We love freedom in America, and we're not going to change.
(Applause.) We stood tall and strong. We're a determined country to not
only protect ourselves, we're determined, as well, to protect ourselves by
spreading freedom throughout the world. We know that free societies will be
peaceful societies. We believe in America that freedom is not America's
gift to the world, it is God's gift to every single human being on the face
of the Earth. (Applause.)

We've been through some tough times, and these tough times came to the
right nation. Our values are strong; our people are courageous and strong
and compassionate. I love being the President of the greatest nation on the
face of the Earth.

May God bless you all. (Applause.)

END 3:53 P.M. PDT

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