From the Document: "Congress continues to face questions about forestry practices, funding levels, and the federal role in wildland fire protection. Recent fire seasons have been, by most standards, among the worst in the past half century. National attention began to focus on wildfires when a prescribed burn in May 2000 escaped control and burned 239 homes in Los Alamos, NM. President Clinton responded by requesting a doubling of wildfire management funds, and Congress enacted much of this proposal in the FY2001 Interior appropriations act (P.L. 106-291). President Bush responded to the severe 2002 fires by proposing a Healthy Forests Initiative to reduce fuel loads by expediting review processes. Many factors contribute to the threat of wildfire damages. Two major factors are the decline in forest and rangeland health and the expansion of residential areas into wildlands--the wildlandurban interface. Over the past century, aggressive wildfire suppression, as well as past grazing and logging practices, have altered many ecosystems, especially those where light, surface fires were frequent. Many areas now have unnaturally high fuel loads (e.g., dead trees and dense thickets) and an historically unnatural mix of plant species (e.g., exotic invaders). Fuel treatments have been proposed to reduce the wildfire threats."
CRS Report for Congress, RL30755