Senate Passes Bill to Try to Save Forests

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The California wildfires come on the heels of an important piece of legislation passed by the United States Senate Thursday.

The Healthy Forests Restoration Act is designed to prevent catastrophic wildfires in the future.

Many lawmakers are calling it the "common sense bill." That's because they say it should be "common sense" to want to protect land before it burns.

Lawmakers say these forest management policies will also save lives and property.

The entire nation watched in horror all week as mountainsides in Southern California went up in flames. Said Christie Kalkowski of the U.S. Forest Service: "These familes and communities lost beautiful backdrops and trees. It's just sickening."

People died, homes were lost. Communities, and families experienced tremendous devastation.

"What you saw in California is when you have such overstocked under story and a big infestation of bugs you have a higher rate that the fire will go up like a chimney," Kalkowski said.

The Healthy Forest initiative seeks to prevent such disastrous wildfires from breaking out in the future. The bill will give state and federal leaders the resources needed to protect national wildlands for future generations.

"The agencies will be able to expedite fuel treatment faster and still do environmental analysis," she said.

Despite 100 years of fire suppression, lawmakers say there's much more work ahead to restore our forests to their natural condition. That of scarcely populated trees,where people can enjoy the beauty but still preserve the environment and wildlife.

"By having health forests you have a healthier habitat living in the forests," Kalkowski said.

The senate bill remains in conference, where parts of it could be changed or amended. Ultimately, it will have to be signed by the President before becoming law.

By the way, Terri, President Bush will be in Southern California on Tuesday surveying the damage left these deadly wildfires.