Volume 2, Number 17 - July 25, 2002
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Nat'l Fire News
Cubin votes to increase funding to battle forest fires
U.S. Representative Barbara Cubin voted to approve the FY2003 budget for the U.S. Department of the Interior, a bill that includes well over $2 billion to aid fire prevention and suppression efforts in the United States. The bill passed by a vote of 377 to 46.
"With wildfires raging throughout the West, it is vital that Congress provide the necessary resources to battle the current fires and prevent any future disasters," said Cubin. "The National Fire Plan (NFP) is a good first step and I am glad that my colleagues heard the concerns of many of us from the western United States and approved these critical funds."
NFP funding includes $898 million for wildfire preparedness, $581 million for wildfire suppression, $110 million for forest health and restoration initiatives, $414 million for hazardous fuels reduction and $119 million for state and community assistance. The funds approved for the NFP are more than $146 million over what was included in the President's budget request.
Conservation groups say FS abusing fire plan funds.
Last week, 148 conservation groups sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth outlining the conservation community's position on wildfires, home protection and fuel-reduction projects.
The conservation groups claim in the letter that "In recent weeks, some politicians and some U.S. Forest Service officials have repeatedly misrepresented the conservation community's position" on these issues.
The letter, which was also sent to every member of Congress and the Western Governors Association, states that the conservation groups have always supported "common sense approaches designed to effectively protect homes and communities from fire." In addition to advocating Congress to "increase funding for community protection and fire education," the conservation community has "taken a leading role in educating homeowners about the importance of treating flammable material adjacent to homes and communities."
"Unfortunately, the Forest Service has chosen to focus their priorities largely on commercial logging projects far removed from communities, not on effectively protecting communities," the letter explains. "[W]hat we are finding 'on the ground' is that National Fire Plan funds have been misused by the Forest Service to promote commercial logging, have not been targeted towards the highest risk areas, and have failed to effectively protect homes and communities from fires."
"The Forest Service, Bush Administration and anti-environmental members of Congress are spreading a great deal of misinformation about wildfire, hoping to capitalize on public fire hysteria and minimize public opposition to increased logging and roadbuilding in our national forests," said Jake Kreilick of the National Forest Protection Alliance based in Montana. "With virtually all new timber sales couched in terms of 'reducing fuels' or 'restoring forest health' fire hysteria has emerged as the driving force behind the Forest Service's logging program and the Administration's efforts to 'streamline' our nation's environmental laws."
"It is time for the Forest Service to be accountable and set its fire-management priorities where Congress and the American people have long demanded it: fuel reduction and fire protection directly adjacent to homes and communities instead of commercial logging or aggressive fire suppression in remote wildlands," said Dr. Timothy Ingalsbee, director of American Lands Alliance's Western Fire Ecology Center in Oregon.
The conservation groups end their letter to Bosworth by saying, "As you can clearly see, the conservation community is deeply committed to the protection of homes and communities. We will continue to expand our efforts to safeguard communities, while at the same time, promote and support ecologically based restoration projects on our national forests. If the Forest Service supports these goals, we feel strongly that we can work together. However, if the Forest Service continues to misuse National Fire Plan money, the conservation community will continue to hold your agency accountable. The American people and our nation's public lands deserve no less."
Three organizations from Wyoming signed the letter: Bighorn Forest Users Coalition, Bradford Environmental Research Institute and the Sublette Riders Association.
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