Full funding for Healthy Forests?

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 22 09:11:28 EST 2004


March 19, 2004   Oregonian

Healthy Forests Act unlikely to get full U.S. funding 

The Interior Department doubts there are enough qualified contracts 

by JIM BARNETT 

WASHINGTON -- The Interior Department will not support a Senate budget
plan to fully fund the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, a law passed
last year to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires, a spokesman
said Thursday.

The House Budget Committee this week passed a resolution authorizing
$2.4 trillion in federal spending next year. But the measure did not
contain a similar forestry provision, likely setting up a showdown in
conference with the Senate.

The Senate plan, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would carve out
an additional $343 million to pay for hazardous-fuel reduction and
other projects authorized by the forests law, which passed late last
year.

President Bush's proposed budget for 2005 meets the $760 million
spending level set by the law, but draws all except $80 million of
that amount from existing programs administered by the U.S. Forest
Service and Interior Department.

John Wright, a spokesman for the department, said the administration
would not support Wyden's plan because it could not find enough
qualified contractors to justify more spending.

Mark Rey, agriculture undersecretary, did not take a position on the
Senate plan, but he agreed that the Forest Service could not ramp up
its fuels-reduction work in time to use the additional money.

"I don't believe we could spend that much money in one fiscal year,"
Rey said.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said the administration's budget plan
would jeopardize firefighting, research and other ongoing programs
that it included in its $760 million total.

DeFazio plans to offer an amendment similar to the Senate plan when
the House holds a floor debate on its budget resolution next week,
although he does not expect the measure to pass.

"The debate needs to be held," said Kristi Greco, a DeFazio
spokeswoman.

In addition to paying for additional thinning of fire-prone forests,
the forests law limits the reach of environmental laws as agencies
treat as many as 20 million acres of fire-prone forests.

Comment by poster: And the plot thickens...  I'm having trouble
following who is telling the truth and what is election year spin.
What I do know is that it is going to take money to accomplish
non-commercial fuels reduction projects near communities. I'm hearing
rumors that the money will be diverted from distant Forests to those
that have lots of wildland-urban interface. Without more money,
catastrophic fires will burn more and more endangered species habitat,
important watersheds and old growth forests that aren't close to
communities.

Larry,    Healthy Forestry Technician
www.fs.fed.us/teams



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