Local officials beg Congress to protect communities first
Some 7 million acres of drought-parched western states went up in flames last summer, killing 23 firefighters and burning more than 800 homes. Colorado was one of the worst-hit states, but the best solution Colorado representative Scott McInnis (R) could come up with was the "Healthy Forests Restoration Act," which would authorize logging 20 million acres of federal landsmany of them far from woodland communities. McInnis also proposed restricting the publics right to object to logging projects, claiming that appeals from environmentalists had delayed crucial thinning efforts. (In fact, when the General Accounting Office looked at 762 Forest Service fuel-reduction projects of the past two years, it found that 95 percent were ready for implementation within the standard 90-day review period.) The New York Times editorialized that "the bill appears to be aimed as much at opening up remote parts of the national forest to the timber companies as it is at protecting obviously vulnerable communities from fire."
McInniss bill passed the House by a big margin, but it didnt spark much enthusiasm back home. More than 50 public officials from 21 districts deemed "at risk" wrote to McInnis to complain that his legislation did little to protect them, and to ask that priority be given to safeguarding homes. Among those writing to demand a real solution were the mayor and city council of Glenwood Springs, McInniss hometown. Paul Rauber