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Governors letter supports Bush bill

by Jon Robinson |

The Governors of four western states signed a letter of endorsement in support of the Healthy Forests Initiative Wednesday.

Govs. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, Judy Martz of Montana and Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who are attending the Healthy Forest Summit in Missoula were instrumental in the drafting of the bill. They also noted the possibility of having more comments after Thursday's sessions.

The Healthy Forests Initiative features active forestry management including increase logging industry involvement.

Attending a news conference at the University of Montana's Lubrecht Experimental Forest in northwestern Montana, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said "It's very important that the governors that started us on this path are now supporting legislation to get it done."

The support for the bill is far from universal however. Some are concerned that the timber industry will focus on logging the older, larger and more profitable trees while leaving the smaller matter more likely to promote fires.

The Director of the Wilderness Society's wildland fire program Jay Watson commented "Any legitimate solution has to solve the problem where it exists," adding "We're not opposed to making use of the value of wood products, but you can't pay for the whole program with logging revenue."

Governer Napolitano also expressed concern and the need for study regarding the limits the bill would place on appeals to Forest Service timber sales and citizen comments.

The meeting will conclude Thursday June 19th.