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George W. Bush's Healthy Forests

George W. Bush's Healthy Forests: Reframing the Environmental Debate

Jacqueline Vaughn
Hanna J. Cortner
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    George W. Bush's Healthy Forests
    Book Description:

    In George W. Bush's Healthy Forests, Jacqueline Vaughn and Hanna Cortner detail how the Bush administration, by changing the terms and processes of debate, sidestepped opposition and put in place policies that restrict public and scientific involvement in environmental decisions. Their groundbreaking study analyzes the context and legal effects of the Healthy Forests Initiative, Healthy Forests Restoration Act, and related regulatory changes.   The authors show how the administration used news events such as wildfires to propel legislation through Congress. Focusing blame for wildfires on legal obstacles and environmentalists' use of appeals to challenge fuel-reduction projects, the administration restricted opportunities for environmental analysis, administrative appeals, and litigation. The authors argue that these tools have a history of use by diverse interests and have long protected Americans' right to question government decisions.   This readable study identifies the players, events, and strategies that expedited the policy shift and contextualizes it in the president's career and in legislative and administrative history. Revealing a policy change with major implications for the future of public lands and public process, George W. Bush's Healthy Forests will become required reading in environmental studies and political science.

    eISBN: 978-0-87081-876-9
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Environmental Science, Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Acronyms
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. introduction: A REVERSAL OF FORTUNES: Reframing the Environmental Debate
    (pp. 1-11)

    On October 21, 2003, a series of fourteen fires erupted in Southern California. The following week, President George W. Bush declared Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura Counties major disaster areas. On November 4, with Governor Gray Davis on his left and Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger on his right,¹ the president appeared in El Cajon, California, an area affected by the Cedar Fire, the largest in the state’s history, to thank fire fighters and volunteers. The California fires burned 750,000 acres, killed 24 people, resulted in 237 serious injuries, destroyed 3,719 homes, and cost roughly $123 million to suppress.²...

  6. chapter one FROM SILENT SPRING TO LUNTZSPEAK: Environmental Policy and George W. Bush
    (pp. 12-43)

    A rich history of U.S. environmental policy and politics can be traced back to colonial times,¹ but publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 is generally credited as the triggering event of the modern environmental movement.² Carson wrote about indiscriminate pesticide use and its effects on wildlife: where mornings once witnessed a chorus of bird calls, now only silence lay over the land. Carson’s eloquent statement began to fracture the technical optimism of a society that accepted as a matter of faith the industrial slogan of “Better Living Through Chemistry.” From this point on, scientists, government, and the public...

  7. chapter two THE RIGHT TO OBJECT: Historic Landmarks in the Development and Use of Appeals
    (pp. 44-72)

    The administrative appeals that ignited the debate over wildfires and forest policies between 2000 and 2003 are part of a somewhat arcane and poorly understood aspect of politics called administrative rulemaking. Most textbooks on U.S. politics, from elementary and secondary schools through college, ignore or gloss over this process. As a result, most people believe that Congress makes laws without giving much thought to what happens next. Policies go from the House and Senate to the president’s desk for signing, and a magical stage called “implementation” begins (although it is doubtful many citizens could attach that term to what goes...

    (pp. 73-118)

    Debate over reform of the administrative appeals process was framed, in part, by undocumented examples retrieved from the institutional memories of Forest Service staff and anecdotal stories about appeals, appellants, and their motivations. They were used to prove appeals were mainly frivolous and caused untenable delays in implementing projects to reduce hazardous fuels. Just as there has been little research about trends in appeal filings by variables such as appellant, region, type, and time period, little is known about why some groups or individuals file appeals, relationships among appellants, successful and unsuccessful strategies, use of the appeals process for non-hazardous...

    (pp. 119-149)

    Fire has been a part of human existence long before recorded time. According to one eminent fire historian, the earth has burned for more than four hundred million years. “For almost all the span of terrestrial life, fire has continued, to varying degrees, as an environmental presence, an ecological process, and an evolutionary force.”¹ But when humans started to control fire—to begin fires under varying circumstances, or halt unwanted fires—entire landscapes could be shaped and changed. From an estimated one billion acres of forests in the United States in 1600, only 730 million acres were left just four...

  10. chapter five REFORM BY LEGISLATION: The Healthy Forests Restoration Act
    (pp. 150-180)

    By defining the fire-appeals problem in terms of process and pointing blame at environmental groups misusing appeals procedures, Congress and the Bush administration were able to cast environmentalists as a major threat to the health of the nation’s forests. Rather than having to defend decades-old policies of fire exclusion or deal with broader questions of fire management and forest restoration,¹ the Forest Service became an active partner with the president and Congress in calling for process reform that would give it more management discretion to implement fuel reduction and forest thinning projects as well as limit public participation in decision...

  11. chapter six REFORM BY RULEMAKING
    (pp. 181-209)

    Historically, forest policy has been dominated by the managerial model in which government administrators were responsible for identifying policy options and making choices in the public’s interest. When the Forest Service was founded, Gifford Pinchot, the agency’s first chief, sought to manage public lands and resources to produce the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time—a concept of social welfare maximization that still exists in many agencies today. But Pinchot’s emphasis on scientific forestry—management by experts with specific forest expertise—was somewhat counter to growing demands for government accountability in a pluralistic system.¹ This is...

  12. conclusion: THE SPILLOVER EFFECT
    (pp. 210-226)

    One of the reasons why this analysis of the Bush administration’s forest policy agenda is valuable is that it is indicative of the major strategies used by the president to affect broader environmental policy change. The term often used to explain this political phenomenon is spillover, a chain of events establishing a principle that guides future policy decisions.¹ Although most policy change occurs incrementally, the passage of landmark legislation or a precedent-setting presidential decision may establish a new way of doing things that makes it difficult to reverse the new direction. Spillover may occur as a result, opening one policy...

  13. INDEX
    (pp. 227-232)