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Bush Proposes Changes in Forest Management Policy - 2003-08-16

President Bush wants to change the way officials manage U.S. forests, by cutting down more trees as a way to decrease the risk of large forest fires.

The president's "Healthy Forest Initiative" would thin smaller trees that often act as kindling, making forest fires burn hotter once they get started.

"Fire professionals and forest and park rangers agree, by thinning overgrown forests, we will reduce the risk of catastrophic fire and restore the health of forest ecosystems," he said.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush said he wants Congress to speed up environmental assessments and the judicial appeals process to prevent environmental groups from delaying federal forestry management efforts by tying them up in the courts.

"The Healthy Forest Restoration Act would make forest health a high priority, when courts are forced to resolve disputes, and it would place reasonable time limits on the litigation process, after the public has had an opportunity to comment, and a decision has been made," said President Bush.

Mr. Bush was in California Thursday and Friday championing his environmental programs, and raising money for his re-election. He will visit the Northwest states of Oregon and Washington in the coming week to do the same.

Before his trip to California, the president met with senior economic advisors at his Texas ranch to discuss the impact of another round of tax cuts that he hopes will help stimulate the economy.

In the Democratic response to the president's radio address, Alabama Congressman Artur Davis says those tax cuts are leading to huge federal deficits and continuing job losses.

"President Bush's misguided economic policies of huge tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and spiraling budget deficits have been a failure," he said. "He has not created jobs; he has not provided small businesses with adequate incentives to invest in new workers; and he has not exercised discipline in balancing the budget."

Congressman Davis says Congressional Democrats want to balance the federal budget, give more tax cuts to working families and encourage small businesses to hire people who have been looking for work for months.

The White House says the deficit is rising because of lower tax revenue from an economy in recession, the fight against international terrorism and the cost of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.