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From: Paul Williams
To: All
Date: 2003-08-16 04:18:38
Subject: Press Release (0308114) for Mon, 2003 Aug 11

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 11, 2003

Remarks by the President on Healthy Forests Initiative
Inspiration Rock
Summerhaven, Arizona



10:55 A.M. MST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all; please be seated. Thanks a lot. Good
morning. Thanks for welcoming me to this beautiful part of the world that
has been scarred by nature. Senator McCain and I drove up the hill and he
was saying, you know, this part of Arizona is a lot prettier than anywhere
in Texas. (Laughter.) I didn't believe it at first. (Laughter.) But it is
beautiful. And all of us are sorry that fire has devastated life in the
countryside here.

I want to thank the people of Summerhaven for allowing us to come up to
visit your beautiful part of the world. You know, any time a community has
been devastated like Summerhaven has been devastated, you can determine the
character of the people -- and the character of the people of Summerhaven
and this part of Arizona have been tested, and you've met the test and our
nation admires your courage and strength.

Too many communities like this have known too many hardships that fire
causes. We've got a problem in the country, a problem which has built up
over decades; and a problem we better fix before more people go through the
grief the people of Summerhaven have gone through, or the people that were
affected by the Rodeo fires in northern Arizona.

See, our job as policy people and members of Congress, have got to fix
problems when we see them -- they don't ignore problems, they don't hope
the problems go away. We come up with common sense solutions to the
problems that affect the daily lives of our citizens. And that's what we're
here to talk about today.

One of the people I've tasked with coming up with solutions to the problems
we face is Secretary Ann Veneman. She's done a fabulous job on behalf of
the people of the United States. She is a common sense purpose -- person.
She asks the practical questions about how do we solve problems in America.
She's also done a fine job of running the Forest Service. And I appreciate
Dale Bosworth being here, he's the Chief of the Forest Service, and thank
you for coming, Chief, I appreciate your common sense policy.

And I want to thank all the Forest Service employees, not only here in this
part of Arizona, but all across the country, for your dedication and
service. Thank you, sir. (Applause.)

I appreciate Big Dan being with us. He is a fire fighter's fire fighter.
(Applause.) The Senator and I and Madam Secretary had a chance to hear him
talk about the courage and valor of the fire fighters in this part of the
state of Arizona, as well as the others he commands. He and his partner,
Larry, who I met last year, are just solid commanders; they're guys who set
the course, set the strategy and encourage the people to get after it.

And, Dan, I want to thank you for your service to our country, as well. I'm
honored that you've given us a tour, I appreciate your service. I'm glad
Ron called you into action -- sad you had to come, but he called you into
action because you're the best at what you do, and that's great for our
country that you are. Thank you and your wife for your service to America.
(Applause.)

Ron, I want to thank you for your hospitality and I want to thank all the
good folks who work here in this park, in this park area for working hard
to make sure the environment is safe and sound and secure, and that this
park remains a beautiful part of the country.

I want to thank John McCain for being with us. He's a common sense
conservative who understands that we can do a better job of managing our
national resources. I also want to thank Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who is
over from the great state of Colorado. Colorado has also faced a lot of
fire, too many fires. And he understands we need better policy.

Jim Kolbe is with us today, he's the congressman from this area. I asked
the county commissioner here, I said, has the response been good? His
first, right off, he said: McCain and Kolbe have been incredibly responsive
to the people of this part of the world and I want to -- and Kyl, he didn't
show up, so he doesn't get any credit. (Laughter.) Kyl is a good man, he
deserves credit.

But I do want to thank the senators and the member of Congress for
responding so quickly to the needs of the people here. I also want to thank
other members of the congressional delegation from Arizona: Jeff Flake and
Trent Franks, Big J.D. Hayworth and Rick Renzi. All fine members of the
United States Congress, all represent their state and their district with
distinction and class, and I want to thank you all for joining us on this
event.

I appreciate Janice Brewer, the Secretary of State of the great state of
Arizona for being here; all the members of the legislature and the state
Senate are here; the county commissioner; our fellow citizens. Thank you
for coming by to give us a chance to say hello.

I particularly want to thank the "hot shot" fire crews, the men and women
who wear yellow, the people who put their lives on the line, those who
respond to emergencies. The forest fire crews have been put to incredible
tests recently. A lot of it has to do with failed policy, backward policy
when it comes to maintaining the health of our forests.

Last year alone, it's important for our fellow citizens all across America
to know, that catastrophic wild fires burned about 7 million acres of land.
And in trying to protect the natural resources and the people affected by
those fires, we lost 23 fire fighters, men and women who served our country
with distinction. Our nation is grateful for those who are willing to take
risk on somebody else's behalf, and we extend our deepest sympathies to the
loved ones who still mourn the lives of those which were lost.

Last month, the people of this beautiful part of America saw the
devastating effects of the Aspen fire, which consumed over 85,000 acres. It
destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings. We flew over Summerhaven. We saw
the devastation. We saw the effects of a fire run wild, not only on the
hillsides, but also in the communities, burnt buildings, lives turned
upside down because of the destruction of fire.

We also were able to see -- I was able to hear the fact that our government
responded quickly, and that's important. In June, shortly after the fire
began, FEMA issued a fire management assistance grant, granting millions of
aid to the state of Arizona to cover a significant portion of the fire
fighting costs. That is a legitimate role of the federal government. And I
will remind the House of Representatives and members of the Senate that we
have an obligation to help people fight fires in America.

The disaster declaration I signed authorized federal assistance to the
state and Pima County for rebuilding public infrastructure and facilities.
The SBA is providing low interest loans to help small business people in
Summerhaven get their feet back on the ground and get the businesses
started again. The Forest Service is putting down seed and hay to prevent
soil erosion. We got to see some of the project, the hay project, on the
hill right over there, right behind us.

The federal government has acted and we need to act, but there's more we
can do with good, sound policy. That's what we need to do at the federal
level. The University of Arizona Steward Observatory and the surrounding
trees on Mount Lemmon are still standing today because of good, sound
forest management practices. They didn't have fires in the area because
there wasn't enough fuel to burn through the area, like it happened here.
There are campgrounds still intact, campgrounds used by church groups and
scout troops which exist today because of good forest management.

Forest thinning projects make a significant difference about whether or not
wildfires will destroy a lot of property. We need to thin our forests in
America. (Applause.)

Our citizens must understand there millions of acres of forest around this
country that are vulnerable to catastrophic fire because of brush and small
trees that have been collecting for decades. Senator McCain reminded me
that it's taken decades for this problem to develop. And, therefore, it's
going to take a while to solve the problem, and we better get after it now
with good, sound forest management practice. (Applause.)

It's important for people who don't know anything about forests and forest
fires to understand that overgrowth chokes off nutrients from older and
taller trees. It provides breeding grounds for insects and disease, which
weaken our forests and make them more susceptible to fire. The kindling can
turn small fires into large, raging fires that burn with such intensity
that the trees literally explode. The devastation of a fire destroys not
only trees, but wildlife and its habitat; it causes flooding and soil
erosion; it can ruin water supplies. Catastrophic fires burn so hot that it
is incredibly hard to put them out. The kindling on the ground, the decades
of neglect, the decades of failed policy have meant that our forest fires
are incredibly hot, incredibly catastrophic. If you don't believe me, ask
people like Dan, who make a living fighting these fires.

And so we've listened to the people who are the front line of making sure
our forests are preserved and healthy. See, we listen to them because we
have an obligation in America to preserve our forests. Our forests are
treasures that must be preserved for future generations. It's important
that we have good, sound forest policy. And the best way to do so is to
listen to the experts, who understand that by thinning out our forests, we
risk -- we reduce the risk of catastrophic fire; that we can and we should
have good, sound forest management policy all across the United States of
America. (Applause.)

And that's why I outlined what I called a Healthy Forest Initiative. The
forest policies of the past operated to discourage efforts to thin forests.
And, unfortunately, well meaning people proposed -- put policy in place
that made the health of the forests at risk, not better off.

And so the initiative said we're going to take a new approach. I called
upon Ann and the Secretary of Interior and the Chairman of the Council on
Environmental Quality to cut through bureaucratic red tape so that we can
get urgently needed thinning projects moving. See, when you hear, red tape,
that means there's a lot of rules and regulations that generally are in
place to prevent something from happening. And our job is to slice through
the red tape to get thinning projects moving forward.

We're speeding up the process of environmental assessment and consultations
required now by current law, while considering both the health of the
forest and our obligation to protect endangered species. We're expediting
the administrative appeals process, so that disputes over projects are
resolved quickly. In other words, not everybody agrees with thinning, there
will be objections. But we want those objections heard, of course -- every
citizen needs to hear a voice -- but we want the process to work quickly so
we can get on about the business of saving our forests.

We believe in bringing people together to try to reach agreement on forest
projects. We believe all voices should be heard. But we want to expedite
the process to avoid the legal wrangling and the delays that take place in
our courts. Delays in our courts prevent us from doing the job necessary to
maintain healthy forests.

We're working with the western governors, most of -- a lot of the problems
exist in -- out west, and we understand that. This is a place for good,
sound policy to take place -- out west, on the federal lands. Above all, we
will continue to rely upon the informed judgment of the forest
professionals and those who fight the fires.

Any skeptic about what I'm talking about ought to come and talk to the
people who know what they're talking about, who make a living fighting
fires, who understand the devastation that is caused by backward forest
policy. Every forest will be treated according to its unique circumstances.
Federal policy must be flexible to be able to deal with the problems in
each particular part of our country.

Saving millions of acres of forest through better management will require a
lot of hard work in a lot of states. And, interestingly enough, will not
only save our forests, but will create jobs. You see, not all the work of
thinning will be done by government. In order to meet some of the goals
we've proposed, we have to rely upon local contractors who will clear away
and be able to sell smaller trees, the trees that provide the kindling. And
this way the work of thinning overgrown forests improves public safety,
will save taxpayer's money and will help local economies. (Applause.)

This initiative that I outlined, the Healthy Forest Initiative, is
producing results. Last year we treated two-and-a-quarter million acres of
overgrown forests. That's a million acres more than were treated in the
year 2000, and that's good. By the end of the fiscal year in September, we
will have treated more than 2.6 million acres of forest and range land, and
that's important. In Arizona, we're treating 224,000 acres this year, about
twice as many acres as were treated in 2001.

We're making progress, but current law makes it very difficult to expedite
the thinning of forests. Laws on the books make it very difficult for us to
set priorities, to listen to those who manage our forests and fight the
fires, and to get after the thinning that is necessary to prevent
catastrophic fires from occurring in the first place.

All too often, the litigation process delays forest projects for years and
years, and that's a reality. Our forests remain unprotected, our
communities are vulnerable. So I asked Congress to reform the review
process for forest projects. The Healthy Forest Restoration Act now pending
in Congress will do just that. It directs courts to consider long term
threats to forest health that could result if thinning projects are
delayed. In other words, it says to the courts, the health of our forests
is a national goal. It makes forest health the priority when it comes to
the courts resolving disputes.

It places reasonable time limits on the litigation process, after the
public has had an opportunity to comment and a decision has been made. For
the sake of our forests, the Congress must act. The House of
Representatives has passed a bill which includes these reforms, and I want
to thank the members from the great state of Arizona for their leadership.
A bill -- such a bill has passed the Senate Agriculture Committee. And now
it's time for us in the administration, and for members in the Senate who
agree with this policy to reach across the partisan divide and get a good
bill out of the United States Senate.

The issue I speak about is not a political issue. It's not a partisan
issue. This is an American issue that requires consensus to do what is
smart and right about preserving and protecting our national forests. I
look forward to working with members of both parties to get a good bill out
of the United States Senate. (Applause.)

Within sight of where we stand are the results of wise forest policy and
the ruins of unwise forest policy. For those who live here, it's the
difference between lives surrounded by natural beauty and lives disrupted
by natural disaster. We can serve the interest of this country by working
together, by listening to people who know what they're talking about and
putting together common sense policy to preserve our forests, to make them
healthy, so that when we step back after our time and service people will
say, job well done. (Applause.)

Thanks for coming. May God bless those who suffer, may God bless those who
serve our country and may God continue to bless America. (Applause.)

END 11:15 A.M. MST


... "You people are TRULY sick...!"  ;> - Danny Davids
--- Terminate 4.00/Pro
 * Origin: Reality crept in... I shot it for trespassing (1:387/710)
SEEN-BY: 633/267 270
@PATH: 387/710 396/45 106/2000 633/267


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