Forest-Thinning Controversy Flares After Wildfires

The devastating wildfires in Southern California have reopened the debate on whether thinning forests is the key to preventing such disasters in the future.

The Forest Service says yes, and wants to allow limited logging and small, controlled burnings of trees. It claims that overgrown, thick forests like those in the San Bernardino Mountains (search) — where much of last week's blaze started — are a fire hazard and a threat to nearby neighborhoods.

Environmental groups say no, calling the Forest Service a front for timber companies who only have logging interests in mind. They say cutting down or burning sections of forest endangers wildlife habitats and old growth trees.

The Bush administration last year proposed a tree-thinning "Healthy Forests Initiative," (search) which passed in the House but was held up in the Senate until last week's wildfires.

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