Healthy Forests Initiative
The Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HR 1904, H. Rpt. 108-386, PL 108-148), signed into law Dec. 3, 2003, calls for two provisions important to communities and businesses: local collaboration through the development of community wildfire protection plans, and multiparty monitoring. Multiparty monitoring processes measure not only ecological, but also, social and economic effects, and include different stakeholders. The intention of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HFRA), informally known as the Healthy Forests Initiative, is to reduce wildfire risks by reducing threats in wildfire-prone areas. Currently, no funding is available; however, the "potential" is offered. This gives some resources to pay for thinning costs. The act also carries a mandate, more or less, for community collaboration, which will increase the need for partnerships and increased community capacities.
Informants say that it is too early to tell if HFRA will benefit community forestry. If the community assistance piece is ever funded, it could be an important part of the picture. It authorizes $760 million annually to clear fire fuels from 20 million acres of federal forest lands. It restricts environmental analysis, administrative appeals and lawsuits in order to speed approval of projects to remove dead and dying trees, brush and debris that could fuel catastrophic wildfires.
The administration on March 3, 2004 issued an "Interim Field Guide for Implementing the Healthy Forests Initiative and Healthy Forests Restoration Act," announcing that hazardous fuels removal projects would qualify more quickly under the National Environmental Policy Act if they occurred: near at-risk communities in the wildland-urban interface; in high-risk municipal watersheds; in areas that provided habitat for threatened and endangered species; or in areas that were susceptible to insect infestation or disease epidemics.