"Healthy Forests" bait and switch?

Le Messurier Churchill at cox.net
Wed Mar 3 20:00:19 EST 2004

  Bush's original request in Healthy Forests was for 2 billion; he got $760
mil.  Now he won't even fund that!  What a travesty.  I can't in good moral
conscience vote for Kerry, but now my vote for Bush is very doubtful.  I
hope all of us here will write to our Senators and Congressmen to protest.

"Larry Harrell" <lhfotoware at hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:7a90c754.0403031552.3f29dc82 at posting.google.com...
> March 3, 2004  Environment & Energy Daily
> Wyden blasts Bush admin for underfunding hazardous fuels reduction
> by Dan Berman
> Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), an instrumental figure in passing "Healthy
> Forests" legislation last fall, lashed out at the Bush administration
> yesterday for its failure to meet Congress' expectation of $760
> million in new money for hazardous fuels reduction.
> At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the
> Forest Service's FY '05 budget request, a visibly agitated Wyden said
> he would not have supported the Healthy Forests Restoration Act last
> year without the $760 million authorization. He pledged to do his best
> to reinstate some of the funding.
> "You are taking the health out of the Healthy Forests program," Wyden
> said to administration witnesses present at the hearing. "At a
> minimum, you are hundreds of millions of dollars short of what the
> Congress authorized."
> The White House requested $80 million to $100 million in new money for
> the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management as part of a total
> $760.4 million under the Healthy Forests rubric. That includes $476
> million for hazardous fuels reduction by both agencies. But those
> figures are far short of the $760 million that Congress authorized for
> hazardous fuels reduction on 20 million acres of national forest at
> extreme risk for catastrophic wildfires.
> "We asked for $760 million in new money for these various kinds of
> initiatives" in the bill, Wyden said. "This is a breach of what the
> Congress intended on a bipartisan basis in terms of getting this work
> done."
> In addition to authorizing the $760 million, the Healthy Forests act
> includes limits on administrative appeals, legal challenges and
> environmental review of thinning projects meant to reduce the threat
> of wildfires, something supporters said is necessary to block actions
> by environmental groups that delay needed action in the field.
> Those new tools, along with expanded use of stewardship contracting
> and categorical exclusions, will allow the Forest Service to make the
> most of its funding request, even without $760 million in new money,
> said Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth.
> For the Forest Service's Healthy Forests budget, the administration is
> requesting $449 million, including $266 million for hazardous fuels
> reduction, $58 million for vegetation and watershed treatment, and $2
> million for stewardship contracting studies. Programs such as
> rangeland management that remove small trees and brush have a
> corollary benefit of reducing the risk for wildfires, the agency says.
> But although the administration hopes to treat 4 million acres of
> federal land through controlled burns, logging, rangeland improvements
> and other measures, Wyden said the funding request sabotages those
> efforts. "It is a fantasy to say we are going to get anything close to
> the amount of work Congress foresaw in this bipartisan legislation,"
> Wyden said. "I think there is going to be enormous frustration out in
> rural America, which is expecting these new funds to get important
> work done, and you all basically did a bait and switch."
> The $760 million authorization was a major issue during the debate
> over the Healthy Forests bill in the Senate and in conference last
> fall. The House version of the bill contained no funding clause, but
> Senate conferees insisted on including the authorization in the final
> bill.
> "I would not have been on the floor for the entire time this debate
> came up unless there was a change to get a bipartisan amendment to
> ensure there would be new dollars for this hazardous fuels reduction
> program," Wyden said.
> Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who worked behind-the-scenes with
> lawmakers last fall, noted the bill leaves funding levels up to the
> discretionary appropriations process and does not specify the $760
> million must be new money.
> Furthermore, while President Bush strongly supported the bill, based
> on his "Healthy Forests Initiative," a statement of administration
> policy (SAP) issued during the Senate debate questioned the need for
> the $760 million authorization. "The administration is concerned that
> the authorization level in the Senate bill is well above [recent
> funding levels] and above the increased funding levels the
> administration requested and continues to support for FY 2004," the
> Oct. 29, 2003, SAP states.
> Wyden disagreed with Rey's assessment, saying, "Everybody in the
> United States Senate thought this was new money that was going to go
> towards these efforts."
> Firefighting issues
> Meanwhile, ranking member Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) criticized the Forest
> Service's $685 million request for wildfire suppression, saying it is
> millions of dollars short of the actual figure the agency has spent
> fighting fires in recent years.
> "I don't think this passes the straight-face test given that all
> indications are that we will have another bad fire season in the
> West," Bingaman said.
> The Forest Service says its request is about $88 million more than it
> budgeted for FY '04. However, the FY '04 budget contains a $300
> million repayment for firefighting costs in previous years. The
> funding request is determined by using the average of costs over the
> past 10 years, but dramatic wildfire seasons of recent years have
> forced the Forest Service to far exceed its budget. To make up the
> shortfall, the Forest Service borrows from other programs, but the
> solution often comes to the detriment of other essential programs
> because the money usually is not restored.
> "Each year we hear testimony about how this administration's request
> will meet the fire suppression needs and help avoid the chaos of
> transfers, and each year we end up scrambling for emergency
> appropriations to cover growing firefighting costs and to repay
> important accounts that have been raided in the meantime," Bingaman
> said. "These transfers cause more than chaos, they cause us to delay
> and dismantle numerous projects in all of our states."
> For the Forest Service, the practice has delayed forest thinning and
> rehabilitation programs designed to prevent future wildfires. In 2002,
> reallocation of funds for fighting wildfires accounted for 30 percent
> of all delays in fire prevention projects, the General Accounting
> Office said in a September 2003 report. As a result, the Forest
> Service and the Interior Department only treated 56 percent of the 4
> million acres they planned to treat last year.
> Rey maintained the administration is willing to work with Bingaman on
> a proposal to create a government-wide contingency account the Forest
> Service and other agencies could use in order to avoid drawing from
> other agency accounts in the future.
> Comment from poster: This is MESSED UP! This will undo any trust in
> the Bush Administration's (and Congress') forestry program. We may be
> looking at a total collapse of emergency actions approved by Congress
> in a bipartisan effort. Judges might just shoot down a great many
> projects because of a lack of funding for non-timber-producing
> activities (controlled burning, removal of unmerchantable fuels, etc)
> embedded within timber projects. These activities were to be the heart
> and soul of "Healthy Forests". Judges also will not stand for
> additional cutting of merchantable trees, understocking forests of
> medium-sized trees (which need to be our future old growth). Old
> growth must not be cut, as well.  Americans should be outraged and
> urging Congress to fully fund the program while watching where EVERY
> PENNY goes. If not, we're looking at continued disasters that may very
> well burn up Bush's re-election bid, too.
> Larry,   still for restoring forests back to old growth

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