Memorandum from the President: Impacts of Wildland Fires to Rural Communities (8/8/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                        (Burgdorf Junction, Idaho)

For Immediate Release                         August 8, 2000

                                 August 8, 2000


SUBJECT: Impacts of Wildland Fires to Rural Communities

We are a little over halfway through the 2000 fire season and all
indications are that it will be the worst season in 50 years.  As of August
7, 2000, 63,623 wildland fires have so far this year burned more than 4
million acres at a cost of $500 million in firefighting expenses.  There
are up to 300 new fires every day, and Federal, State, and local agencies
are managing 50 fires over 1,000 acres in size.  The current weather
conditions following the prolonged drought in much of the west are drying
out millions of acres of forest and rangeland, and the National Weather
Service?s near-term forecast calls for continued hot, dry conditions with
the probability of additional lightning-caused fires.

Over the last several years, the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of
the Interior have increased their efforts to protect communities,
watersheds, and threatened species from the risk of fire, including
reducing hazardous fuels on at-risk public and private lands.

In the western National Forests alone, there are more than 56 million acres
at risk.  Since 1994 when the Forest Service treated approximately 385,000
acres across the United States, the Department of Agriculture has increased
annual hazardous fuels treat-ments almost four-fold.  Last year, almost 2
million acres were treated.  But there is much more to be done.  You are
currently working to develop a long-term strategy to expand Federal efforts
to protect communities in the urban-wildland interface and the underlying
ecology of these areas.  This long-term plan will set targeted funding
priorities to reduce fire risk in fire-dependent ecosystems through-out the
country.  The plan will focus on protecting communities, watersheds, and
species and is a critical component of any fire management program.

To help address this issue in the near term, today I am directing you to
report back to me in 30 days with recommendations on actions that may be
taken to respond to this year?s fires; to reduce the impacts of these
wildland fires on rural communities; and to ensure sufficient firefighting
resources in the future.
First, the report should consider potential responses to this year?s fires,

?    A short-term plan for rehabilitation of fire-damaged ecosystems,
including means to minimize the introduction of invasive species, reduce
threats to water quality, and protect endangered species.  The plan should
also address the role of natural restoration processes in these efforts.

?    An assessment of the economic impacts in affected areas.

Second, the report should focus on the short-term actions that Federal
agencies, in cooperation with States and local communi-ties, can take to
reduce immediate hazards to other communities in the wildland-urban
interface.  As part of this effort, the report will examine how the Federal
Government, in cooperation with State and tribal governments, and local
communities, will prepare for anticipated extreme fire conditions in the
future, by analyzing fire management planning and firefighter personnel and

You should use this information to review firefighting and prevention needs
and work with the Office of Management and Budget to determine whether
there are additional FY 2001 funding needs so that the Administration may
request, and the Congress may provide, additional resources before the end
of the fiscal year.

                              WILLIAM J. CLINTON

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