House panel approves extra wildfire money

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 11 18:02:28 EST 2002


July 11, 2002  The Arizona Republic

Forest Service freezes funds 

Costly fires mean delays for other work 

By Judd Slivka, The Arizona Republic

Blaming the most severe fire season in decades, the U.S. Forest
Service is freezing all spending not directly related to fighting
wildland fires or to day-to-day operations, according to a memo
received Wednesday by Arizona officials.

That means campgrounds that need work won't see repairs, Forest
Service employee travel is halted, and pending contracts will be
delayed until at least Oct. 1, when the agency receives its next round
of funding from Congress.

"If there's an environmental-impact study going on, you stop work on
it," said Alice Forbes, Forest Service director of operations at the
National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. "The bottom line is
that any kind of contract that hasn't been made official yet, we're
not entering into it for a while. This is going to have a major impact
all across the agency. And it's all because fire season started . . .
early."

The Forest Service originally had budgeted $321 million of its $4
billion annual budget to fight fires this year. But costly blazes
throughout the West over the past three months - the "Rodeo-Chediski"
fire in east-central Arizona cost more than $43 million to fight -
have raised the bar. At the end of June, the agency forecast that fire
suppression for the year would cost $966 million, or nearly 25 percent
of its annual budget.

Comment: Will the USFS use me and my GS-7 ( $30,000 per year, if I
worked all year long, which I don't ) wage in fire camps to pass out
radios or issue equipment or will they use GS-11 ($40,000 to $60,000
per year) folks, like usual? Fire camp jobs are cherished and hoarded
by the local bigwigs as ways to make big overtime bucks from the
fires. With budgets being funneled into fire suppression, can the
taxpayers afford high-priced Forest Service "executives" to do fire
camp jobs that anyone can do?

Also, good thing ALL travel isn't banned.....I'd be walking back from
South Dakota, reliving the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Larry,  hoping bigwigs don't see this



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