Public Papers - 1992
White House Statement on Fire Danger in the Northwest
The President today announced several actions that the administration will take to expedite salvage operations of dead or dying timber in the Northwest and Northern California in order to ease the growing fire danger in that region. Western States, particularly California, are experiencing one of the worst fire seasons in history. This summer alone, there have been over 70,000 wildfires that have destroyed approximately 1.7 million acres of forest and rangeland, burned over 1,200 homes and other buildings, and required the evacuation of over 35,000 people. Fire danger has been particularly acute due to the unusually large volume of timber that is dead or dying because of a 7-year drought that also has exacerbated damage from insects and disease.
The President has directed the Department of Agriculture and the Interior and all other appropriate Federal Agencies to expedite their existing timber salvage sales programs for those areas not falling within spotted owl habitat, where timber harvesting is prohibited by Federal court order. In addition, the Department of Agriculture will issue final regulations updating their policy and procedures for complying with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The final USDA regulation increases to 1.0 million board feet the amount of dead or dying trees which can be harvested in a single salvage project without having to prepare documentation under NEPA. Pursuant to NEPA and applicable regulations, USDA has determined that timber sales of this magnitude will have no significant environmental effect. In addition to reducing the danger from forest fires, the U.S. Forest Service estimates these actions will increase the timber harvest from these lands by 250 to 450 million board feet for fiscal year 1993.