-- The economic value of the nation's national forests 192 million
acres and generates nearly 500,000 jobs in timber, mining, grazing
and other uses according to the research of timber industry official
Chris West of the Northwest Forestry Association in Portland,
The Forest Service analysis predicted timber would generate
$4 billion for the economy and 76,000 jobs by 2000, and that minerals, grazing
and other activities would generate $19 billion and 331,000 jobs. The moist recent
Forest Service study this year estimates that water in national forests is worth
$4 billion. A 1997 study by Forest Service economists estimated that wild areas
have a value of $108 billion.
All of this is at risk from wildfire
threat (fuelólive and dead vegetationóbuildup). Years of fire
suppression and other management practices have resulted in
high-intensity fires that threaten the lives of the public and
firefighters, private and public property, and critical natural
resources. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Forest Service has identified approximately 39 million acres
of National Forest System landsprimarily in the interior
West and the Atlantic coastal Statesthat are at high risk
from catastrophic fires. Many of these forests are overcrowded,
resulting in high mortality rates from bark beetle and other
insect and disease outbreaks. High forest mortality rates result
in excessive fuel buildups.
To minimize fuel buildups, the USDA
Forest Service annually treats about 1.5 million acres through
mechanical treatment and prescribed burning. By the year 2005,
the goal is to treat at least 3 million acres per year to address
the most critical high-fire-risk areas. In treating acres at
riskand minimizing the impact to the publicthe USDA
Forest Service works closely with the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), State organizations, and others to manage smoke
duration and volume.
In addition to these treatments, the
threat of destructive crown fires in unnaturally dense forest
stands is being reduced through thinning of small-diameter trees.
Wildlife biologists participate in treatment design and implementation
to ensure that wildlife habitat needs are being met while reducing
the potential for catastrophic wildland fires.