But it's expensive work. It can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,500 per acre to do proper fuels treatment, and the Forest Service simply has too much land and not enough money. So Bush has proposed that private timber companies do the thinning in exchange for the wood products. This is an about-face from Clinton-era policy. The original report to President Clinton on wildfire strategy, following the fires of 2000, warned against using commercial logging as a shortcut to forest thinning.
If the goal of the Bush plan really were to remove young trees, it would fail on practical grounds. Trees smaller than 9 inches in diameter have little commercial value. When the Forest Service tries to sell thinning contracts to timber companies, it finds that those areas with commercial potential get treated first, rather than those areas with the most urgent ecological needs. Says Raymond Smith, appeals and litigation manager for the Forest Service's Northern Region: "Sometimes a forest will put together a management plan and parts of it will never sell, because there's just too much small stuff in those parts and not enough big stuff."