Congress Considers Expanding Daschle’s South Dakota Forest Provisions to Nation, by Gretchen Randall

BACKGROUND: The U.S. House Resources Committee will hold a hearing Thursday, September 5, 2002 to consider several bills that would permit thinning of forests nationwide without interruption from environmental lawsuits. One bill, The National Forest Fire Prevention Act (H.R. 5214), introduced by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) uses much of the same wording as the amendment Sen. Daschle (D-SD) used to exempt South Dakota forests from environmental regulations and the lawsuits that delay fire prevention efforts. As President Bush said in a recent speech while visiting Oregon and seeing the wildfire devastation there, “If it’s good enough for that part of South Dakota, it’s good enough for Oregon.”

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: Why shouldn’t all the nation’s forests get the same treatment as those in the Senate Majority Leader’s home state of South Dakota?

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: About 50% of all thinning projects planned to reduce fuel in our forests were delayed by environmental lawsuits last year. This bill would prohibit delays that have stopped efforts to reduce the massive fuel buildup that is feeding monster forest fires. If the exemptions from burdensome regulations are okay for South Dakota, why not for all of America’s forests?

DISCUSSION: The National Forest Fire Prevention Act would allow the National Forest Service to conduct sound forest management that includes environmentally sound logging to reduce dangerous fuel loads now threatening America’s wildlands. The bill gives the Secretary of Agriculture the power to reduce infest infestation or timber stands that are a fire hazard — regardless of environmental laws. The Secretary’s actions will not be subject to any judicial review by any court of the U.S. The bill can be accessed at

More than 20 congressmen are co-sponsors of H.R. 5214. Below are some of their comments about the bill.

Rep. Rehberg: “I introduced legislation to extend Daschle’s South Dakota specific forest plant to the rest of America– freeing all national forest land at risk of catastrophic fire from the shackles of burdensome regulations and lawsuits.”

Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY): “Not one more family should see their home burn before Senator Daschle acknowledges that what is good for the people of South Dakota is good for the citizens of the American West.”

Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA): “Mr. Daschle, wildfires are everyone’s problem. They harm communities. They harm species. And they harm our forests.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION: More facts on our nation’s forests are available from The National Center’s Forest Policy Information Center at

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