USDA Forest Service: Healthy Forests Initiative
While fire has always helped shape our landscape, today’s fires are not those of the past; they are often hotter, more destructive, and more dangerous to fight. In recent years, most of us have seen televised pictures of wildland fires, evacuated communities, burned homes, and blackened forests, or witnessed these first hand. In part, the reason for the difference is that many of today’s forests often have unprecedented levels of flammable materials including among other materials: underbrush, needles and leaves.
A century ago a ponderosa pine forest may have had some 25 mature trees per acre and be easily traversed on horseback or by a horse-drawn wagon. Today the same forest may have more than 1.000 trees on the same acre, creating conditions that are much too thick for the passage of a hiker. These tightly packed trees are smaller, weaker, more disease prone and more susceptible to insect attack than their ancestors. Such forests form huge reservoirs of fuel awaiting ignition, and pose a particularly significant threat when drought is also a factor.
President Bush has taken a series of actions to expedite high-priority fuel-reduction and forest restoration projects in our nation's forests and rangelands, including the December 2003 signing of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act. The primary goal of these projects is to reduce the fire danger and return our forests and rangelands to a healthier state.
To learn more about the Healthy Forests Initiative please visit
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250