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  • The politics of wildfire

    By ROBERT GEHRKE
    Associated Press Writer
    WASHINGTON (AP) - With fires threatening communities in Arizona
    and New Mexico, a Senate committee considered legislation Thursday
    that would accelerate projects to cut trees from thick, dense
    forests to reduce the risks of catastrophic fire.
    "The long, hot summer of forest fires has already begun and
    they're playing themselves out in the states of New Mexico and
    Arizona," Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, said as the Senate
    Agriculture Committee debated the bill, which is backed by the Bush
    administration.
    The bill would allow federal land managers to accelerate logging
    and controlled burning on 20 million acres of federal land with the
    most severe fire risks, either because they have grown thick with
    flammable brush and trees or because disease or insect infestations
    have left behind dead, dry timber.
    The areas would be exempt from some of the normal environmental
    reviews. It would also limit administrative appeals and direct
    judges to expedite court challenges that Republicans say have
    caused projects to bog down for years.
    The changes, said Mark Rey, the Agriculture Department
    undersecretary in charge of the Forest Service, would allow more
    money to be devoted to treating the forests and shorten the time
    before a project is implemented.
    The Bush administration has already removed some of the hurdles
    to forest treatment. Under rules adopted in May, logging on up to
    1,000 acres and controlled burns on up to 4,500 acres in at-risk
    areas could be "categorically excluded" from environmental
    reviews and administrative appeals.
    Together, the bill, which passed the House last month, and the
    rules implement the bulk of President Bush's Healthy Forest
    Initiative, which he outlined last summer after the touring a
    charred Oregon forest.
    Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., sent a letter to Senate Majority
    Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Minority Leader Tom Daschle,
    D-S.D., urging them to pass the bill before Congress recesses in
    August so the changes can be in place in time to make a difference
    in next year's fire season.
    The administration estimates that 190 million acres of federal
    land - an area the size of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming combined -
    are at heightened risk for a severe wildfire.
    "We can protect the environment, we can restore our forests to
    a healthy condition, we can reduce our danger to" communities,
    said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
    Michael Petersen of The Lands Council, an environmental group
    based in Spokane, Wash., told the committee that efforts to treat
    forests need to be focused more on areas surrounding communities.
    "We can't and shouldn't fireproof our forests, but we can work
    toward fireproofing our communities," he said.
    He also expressed concerns that the bill would allow
    environmentally damaging projects to go ahead without adequate
    environmental review, that it limits public input in forest
    management and would provide new subsidies for logging companies.
    A wildfire along the banks of the Rio Grande has burned more
    than 700 acres outside Albuquerque, N.M., threatening homes and
    forcing more than 200 people to evacuate. And a fire in southern
    Arizona has burned 30,600 acres, destroying 345 buildings in the
    vacation town of Summerhaven.
    Still, this year's fire season has been relatively mild, burning
    653,000 acres, one-fourth of the acreage that had burned at this
    point last year. Over the past decade, an average of 1.2 million
    acres have burned by this time each year.
    On Monday, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., introduced alternative
    forest legislation that would also expedite logging and controlled
    burns in high-risk areas and would limit appeals, but would require
    that 70 percent of forest treatments be focused within a half-mile
    of communities.
    Rey said the Democratic bill would reverse some of the changes
    the administration put into effect in May and would add to the
    paperwork required for forest projects.
    "Many people accuse us of fiddling while this crisis unfolds
    and I fear if you give us that measure it would be a
    Stradivarius," he said.
    Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Dianne Feinstein of
    California also introduced legislation Thursday that would speed
    appeals, authorize $3.8 billion for forest treatment and require
    that at least half the work be done near communities. It also would
    prohibit cutting of old-growth trees and protect roadless areas.
    Wyden said the bill has the best chance of getting the 60 votes
    needed to pass the Senate this year.
    ---
    On the Net:
    U.S. Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us/

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

  • #2
    7/22/03

    WASHINGTON (AP) - The Forest Service needs Congress to quickly
    pass a broad overhaul of national forest management, a top official
    said Tuesday, in order to reduce the threat of major wildfires next
    year.
    "Even if it passes next spring, we won't be able to use it in
    the next fire season," said Mark Rey, the Agriculture Department
    undersecretary in charge of the Forest Service.
    Rey's comments came as the Senate appears headed for another
    logjam over a bill passed last month by the House and backed by the
    White House.
    Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the administration is at least four
    votes short of the 60 it would need to pass the House bill over the
    Democrats' objections. He said an agreement is possible if the
    White House is willing to work with Democrats who are reluctant to
    tinker with the role of the courts in reviewing forest management.
    "The ball is in the administration's court," Wyden said. "But
    if they make a judgment that they just want to go on the campaign
    trail, that it's the House bill or nothing, that would be injurious
    to the country."
    Last year the administration's efforts to speed up forest
    treatment failed when senators could not agree on legislation.
    Several expressed frustration at the prospect of inaction this
    year.
    "We're tiptoeing through the forests as they burn," said Sen.
    Larry Craig, R-Idaho. "I would hope that politics would yield to
    common sense on this issue."
    The House bill would speed up efforts to cut trees from
    overgrown forests and use controlled burns to consume excess fuel
    in an effort to prevent the type of catastrophic wildfire that
    charred nearly 7 million acres last year.
    It would exempt 20 million acres of at-risk forests from normal
    environmental reviews and would limit administrative appeals and
    seek to expedite court challenges that the administration argues
    have long delayed some forest treatment projects.
    The Bush administration has already removed some of the hurdles
    to forest treatment. Under rules adopted in May, logging on up to
    1,000 acres and controlled burns on up to 4,500 acres in at-risk
    areas could be "categorically excluded" from environmental
    reviews and administrative appeals.
    The administration estimates that 190 million acres of federal
    land - an area the size of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming combined -
    are at heightened risk for a severe wildfire.
    So far this year, fires have charred nearly 1.5 million acres,
    all of them in Western states.
    The Senate Agriculture Committee has a hearing scheduled for
    Thursday to amend the wildfire legislation and vote to send it to
    the full Senate for action.
    "We need Congress to act. This is an issue that has been
    debated ad nauseam in D.C.," said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a
    Democrat. "While the clouds for the 'perfect storm' have been
    gathering for a long time, we now have the perfect storm, with the
    drought, the bark beetle infestation and the large fires."
    Napolitano said the Western Governors' Association has endorsed
    a plan that calls for protecting communities that border forests;
    cooperation between federal, state and local officials; and a
    substantial increase in the federal funding going to wildfire
    prevention.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

    Comment


    • #3
      July 24th

      By ROBERT GEHRKE
      Associated Press Writer
      WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate Agriculture Committee avoided a
      showdown on a forest-fire prevention bill Thursday, advancing it
      but choosing to deal with its thornier elements when the bill
      reaches the full Senate in September.
      Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he is hopeful a
      compromise can be reached to tackle the fire issue before Congress
      returns in September from a monthlong recess.
      "We have a real opportunity to address it and I hope we seize
      that opportunity in a bipartisan manner," he said.
      Senators from both parties concede the administration is about
      four votes short of the 60 needed to pass the bill over Democrats'
      objections if a deal is not struck.
      Last year, efforts to pass legislation to streamline forest-fire
      reduction efforts and limit environmental appeals got bogged down
      in partisan bickering in the Senate. On Thursday, senators said
      they cannot afford to wait any longer.
      Sen. Michael Crapo, R-Idaho, said the death of two firefighters
      in his state Tuesday - which brought to eight the number of
      firefighters killed this year - demonstrates the need for action.
      "These sacrifices underscore the need for legislation to
      address the health crisis facing our nation's forests," Crapo
      said. "We can't let our forests continue to decay as projects to
      enhance their health are delayed behind frivolous appeals and
      litigation."
      Members of both parties have voiced support for speeding up the
      process to cut trees out of forests that have grown too thick or
      have been ravaged by bugs in order to reduce the threat of the kind
      of massive wildfires that burned across the West in 2000 and 2002.
      The major sticking point remains over whether Congress should
      require anyone challenging such a project to show that the decision
      to cut the trees was "arbitrary and capricious."
      "Essentially what they're doing is reaching in and putting a
      hand on the scale of justice," said Marty Hayden, an attorney with
      the environmental group Earthjustice.
      Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., agreed the bill tinkers with the
      court system and continues to underfund forest treatment projects.
      He introduced his own bill Thursday, bringing to at least five the
      number of Senate alternatives to the House bill.
      The committee added provisions to the bill that would create a
      public land corps to put at-risk youth to work on forest health
      projects, and provide $15 million in grants to help rebuild rural
      economies in nine states that have lost forestry jobs.
      Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., the sponsor of the House bill, said
      it has been two months since the House approved the legislation,
      and the Senate should act quickly.
      "I know the Senate is busy these days, but this is a crisis
      situation of enormous proportions and I would hope that my
      colleagues on the other side of the Capitol would treat this
      legislation with commensurate urgency," McInnis said.
      The Bush administration in May enacted rules that allow logging
      on up to 1,000 acres and controlled burns on up to 4,500 acres in
      at-risk areas without environmental reviews and administrative
      appeals.

      (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
      Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
      Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

      *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
      On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

      Comment


      • #4
        Budget Spent

        WASHINGTON (AP) - The Forest Service has exhausted its
        firefighting budget at a time that more than two dozen large
        wildfires are raging in the West.
        The agency said Monday it would begin transferring money from
        other accounts - including fire prevention projects - to continue
        putting out fires.
        Underfunding is a perennial problem for the Forest Service and
        one that has drawn increasing criticism from Western lawmakers and
        watchdog groups. They say the agency needs to do a better job
        estimating how much will be needed to fight fires and Congress
        should find a way to provide the money.
        "Here we go again," said Keith Ashdown, a spokesman for
        Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group that has criticized
        the Forest Service. "Unfortunately, we handle every fire season
        like it's a financial crisis."
        Ashdown and other critics say the makeshift approach - borrowing
        from accounts for fire prevention, road repair and restoration of
        areas damaged by previous fires - makes little sense, since many of
        the programs are intended to keep fires from happening at all.
        Monday's announcement comes less than a week after Congress
        rejected President Bush's request for $289 million in emergency
        spending to fight wildfires. Bush had requested the money - which
        would supplement $578 million already allocated for firefighting by
        the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management - as part of an
        emergency spending bill for natural disasters.
        Pressured by record federal deficits and eager to leave town,
        the House Republican leadership cut out the wildfire money before
        leaving on summer recess July 25.
        The Senate had initially approved the firefighting money in its
        version of the emergency bill. But senators removed the funding
        last week to align their bill with the House and send it to Bush
        for his signature.
        The omission of the firefighting money left many Western
        senators seething.
        "I have as conservative a voting record as anybody, but I don't
        try to be crazy about it," said Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah. "If
        there's something that's a legitimate role of government, even
        conservatives understand you fund it."
        The Forest Service said Monday it expects to spend at least $773
        million on firefighting this year, about $355 million more than
        allocated in the current budget. That estimate could go up,
        depending on the severity of large fires now burning in nine
        Western states, officials said.
        The Forest Service spent more than $1.4 billion in 2002, one of
        the worst fire seasons on record.
        In congressional testimony this year, Forest Service Chief Dale
        Bosworth said the agency and Congress must find a long-term
        solution.
        "It's absolutely crazy to continue year after year wondering if
        we have to transfer money to cover fire costs," he said.
        ---
        On the Net:
        Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us/
        National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov

        (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
        Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
        Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

        *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
        On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

        Comment


        • #5
          REDMOND, Ore. (AP) - With the smoke of a wildfire billowing on
          the horizon, President Bush urged Congress on Thursday to support
          his plan to ease environmental restrictions on logging and speed
          thinning projects in national forests to reduce the danger of
          wildfire.
          "We have a problem in Oregon and around our country that we
          must start solving," Bush said, after flying over wildfires in the
          Cascade Range. "The problem is too much undergrowth and that
          creates conditions for unbelievably hot fires."
          Environmentalists have complained that Bush's initiative,
          announced a year ago during a visit to southern Oregon that was
          also marked by wildfires, would allow timber companies to harvest
          old growth forests, reduce public involvement in forest management
          decisions, and could jeopardize endangered species.
          "If you are concerned about old growth, you'd better be worried
          about conditions that can create deadly fires," Bush told a crowd
          at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in central Oregon.
          The strategy, he said, "is not something invented in
          Washington. It is the collective wisdom of scientists, wildlife
          biologists, forestry professionals, firefighters."
          "Our administration is taking their advice. Congress needs to
          take their advice," Bush said.
          Bush had planned to tour a U.S. Forest Service thinning project
          near Camp Sherman and urge support for his initiative in a speech
          in the mountain community. Plans changed after the Booth and Bear
          Butte Complex fires grew to 4,000 acres, forcing evacuation of the
          tiny community of Camp Sherman and closing U.S. Highway 20.
          The fires broke out Tuesday afternoon in the Mount Jefferson
          Wilderness and grew quickly. The cause was under investigation. The
          president toured the area by air, but vision was obscured by smoke,
          which could be smelled in the cabin of his aircraft.
          A bill sponsored by Republican congressmen Greg Walden of Oregon
          and Scott McInnis of Colorado sailed through the House last May,
          and is awaiting consideration in the Senate, where Sen. Ron Wyden,
          D-Ore., has demanded changes.
          Wyden wants the bill amended to add federal funding for thinning
          projects, rather than paying for them through the sale of large
          trees that are the most fire-resistant. Wyden also wants to exclude
          logging in the old growth forests that have been battlegrounds in
          the Northwest.
          Josh Kardon, Wyden's chief of staff, said he did not hear
          anything in the president's speech that would indicate his
          willingness to offer the kind of compromise needed for the House
          bill to be embraced by Democrats and pass the Senate.
          "The president has been the father of the Healthy Forest
          Initiative but he has been something of an absentee father of
          late," Kardon said.
          Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth said existing budgets could
          be stretched farther if the agency did not have to devote so much
          money to paperwork.
          Last year, wildfires burned nearly 7 million acres nationally
          and killed 23 firefighters, destroyed hundreds of homes and cost
          the federal government $1.5 billion.
          Bush's bill calls for aggressive thinning on up to 20 million
          acres of the 190 million acres the Forest Service has estimated at
          high risk of wildfire. It would eliminate some environmental
          reviews, limit appeals on overgrown woodlands, and direct judges to
          consider the need to protect forests from wildfire when considering
          lawsuits, so forest projects could be completed within months.
          Critics say the Bush plan will make it easier to harvest large
          trees - the most valuable for lumber mills - and damage habitat for
          fish and wildlife.
          Tim Lillebo, Eastern Oregon Field representative for the Oregon
          Natural Resources Council, an environmental group, said he was
          encouraged by the president's mention of protecting old growth
          forests, setting priorities for projects that protect forest
          communities, and maintaining public participating in forest
          management decisions.
          "If you're saying it, George, write it into the bill," Lillebo
          said. "If you write it into the bill, we'll get some real good
          common ground."
          The bill includes a provision allowing logging projects on up to
          1,000 acres without environmental review if they are infested with
          insects. Controlled burns up to 4,500 acres could be done without
          environmental studies. Though not eligible for administrative
          appeal, such "categorical exclusions" would still be liable to
          court challenges.

          (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
          Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
          Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

          *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
          On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

          Comment


          • #6
            Clinton vs Bush-Fire Prevention?

            Do you have any budgetary numbers on the amounts allocated for Wildfire Prevention?
            What hinderances are there to prevention, imposed by ultra-environmentalists, ie access to rugged, remote regions?

            Thanks

            Comment


            • #7
              These are the numbers I found on the web.

              The Bush Administration requested $2.2 billion in wildfire prevention and firefighting money for the Interior Department and the Forest Service. (FY2003)

              The Clinton Administration's proposal for wildland fire management in September of 2000, was for 2.8 billion dollars, an increase of 1.6 billion over the current allotment at that time.


              Now.....does logging reduce the threat of wildfire?
              Food for thought:

              Perhaps the most significant big wildfire occured in 1871 near Peshtigo, Wisconsin in an area that had been extensively logged. Salable timber was removed, whereas slash and dense undergrowth were left behind. On October 8th, a small brush fire quickly grew into an inferno, consumed Peshtigo within an hour, damaging 16 other towns, and burnt more than 1.2 million acres. More than 1,200 people died, making it the worst wildfire disaster in US history.
              Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
              Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

              *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
              On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

              Comment


              • #8
                Puts it all in perspective doesn't it, the horrendous fire season in BC and parts of Alberta. I like to think that shows the advances in technology etc that we haven't lost 1200 lives. 3 lives lost is bad enough.
                September 11th - Never Forget

                I respect firefighters and emergency workers worldwide. Thank you for what you do.

                Sheri
                IACOJ CRUSTY CONVENTION CHAIR
                Honorary Flatlander

                RAY WAS HERE FIRST

                Comment


                • #9
                  MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A group of U.S. Forest Service employees
                  and others want the government to study its firefighting policies
                  and the use of chemical fire retardants.
                  Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics contends that
                  decades of aggressive fire suppression have created even more
                  dangerous fire conditions in the nation's forests, resulting in
                  increased risk of death or injury to firefighters.
                  The Eugene, Ore.-based group said it will seek a court order on
                  Tuesday requiring the Forest Service to prepare a comprehensive
                  environmental study on its use of fire retardant and an examination
                  of firefighting's toll on human life.
                  "Too many firefighters die each year in a fruitless and
                  self-defeating war against fire," Executive Director Andy Stahl
                  said. "We can't think of a more appropriate organization to come
                  to the defense of wildland firefighters or to hold our agency
                  accountable for the unwarranted risk it places on its employees."
                  Twenty-six people died in firefighting-related incidents this
                  year, and more than 900 wildland firefighters have died since 1910.
                  A call to the Forest Service's regional office in Missoula went
                  unanswered on Monday, a federal holiday.
                  "The Forest Service has never, not once in its history, weighed
                  the pros and cons of firefighting," said attorney Marc Fink of the
                  Western Environmental Law Center, which represents the Forest
                  Service employee group.
                  Because an environmental impact statement must examine social
                  effects, it would have to consider the deaths of firefighters
                  killed fighting wildfires in the past century, Stahl said.
                  The group contends the Forest Service has violated the National
                  Environmental Policy Act by failing to go through an open public
                  process to examine the environmental impacts of dropping retardant
                  on wildfires.
                  It also claims that the Forest Service violated the Endangered
                  Species Act by failing to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
                  Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service on the lethal
                  effects on threatened and endangered bull trout and salmon of
                  dropping fire retardant in streams.
                  Nearly 3.1 million acres of range and forest has burned so far
                  this year with the cost of suppression still being calculated. A
                  year ago, 6.7 million acres burned at a cost of $1.6 billion,
                  according to the National Interagency Fire Center. The 10-year
                  average of 4.1 million acres.
                  ---
                  On the Net:
                  Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics:
                  http://www.fseee.org

                  (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
                  Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
                  Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

                  *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
                  On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Just as the Southern California
                    wildfires were beginning late last week, the Bush administration
                    quietly turned down a six-month-old emergency request by Gov. Gray
                    Davis for help in removing dead and dying trees in the same forests
                    now being consumed by flame.
                    In April, Davis asked for a federal emergency declaration in
                    three counties where bark beetle infestation had left thousands of
                    acres of dense woodland vulnerable to fire.
                    If approved, the presidential proclamation would have paved the
                    way for millions of dollars in federal support for clearing dead
                    trees in San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
                    "We made the request in the hope of making a horrific situation
                    less serious and we were turned down," Davis spokesman Steve
                    Maviglio said.
                    A spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which
                    handled the Davis request, said it decided against the proposal
                    largely because Congress had already agreed to provide $43 million
                    this year for fighting the beetle infestation in Southern
                    California and the sum seemed appropriate at the time.
                    But state officials say the money represented only a small part
                    of the $450 million needed to clear the forest of dead trees and
                    eliminate the fire danger.
                    State officials have estimated the fires - which have burned
                    about 2,600 homes, blackened about 730,000 acres and killed at
                    least 20 people - could take a $2 billion toll on California's
                    economy.
                    After four years of drought, nearly a half-million acres of
                    dense woodland in Southern California had become infested by the
                    bark beetle. Local and state officials had warned that the forests
                    were a disaster waiting to happen, and some have criticized Davis
                    for not moving more aggressively to combat the problem.
                    In an April 16 letter to FEMA officials, Davis said,
                    "Supplementary federal assistance is necessary to save lives,
                    protect property, public health and foster safety."
                    A response from the letter has still not been received by the
                    governor's office, Maviglio said. The state was notified by the
                    office of Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., last Friday that the request
                    had been turned down.
                    The FEMA denial came a few days after the first of the major
                    fires began to rage out of control in San Diego and San Bernardino
                    counties.
                    "I don't want to second-guess that decision," said Chad
                    Kolton, FEMA spokesman. "They were asking for federal resources
                    and federal resources were being provided."
                    State Sen. Jim Brulte, a Republican whose district includes big
                    parts of the fire-ravaged area, said that it was not fair for Davis
                    to suggest the federal government has not been doing enough.
                    "The Davis administration twice rejected San Bernardino's
                    request for a state of emergency to be declared and we had to beat
                    up on them to finally get it," he said. "The fact is that
                    everyone has been late to this party."
                    The beetles, which are native to California, drill into bark,
                    seeking the moist inner layers to feed on. Typically, they can kill
                    only drought-weakened trees.
                    Healthy trees are able to expel the invaders by flooding the
                    infestation with resin, which drought-stressed trees can't produce.
                    Once the infestation has begun the trees are starved of water and
                    nutrients and quickly die.

                    APTV 10-30-03 2136EST
                    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
                    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

                    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
                    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      October 30th

                      WASHINGTON (AP) - Against the backdrop of raging wildfires in
                      the West, the Senate approved a forest management plan late
                      Thursday that would allow expanded tree thinning on 20 million
                      acres of federal land to reduce the risk of fires.
                      Meanwhile, the House approved a record $2.9 billion for
                      firefighting and fire protection in federal forests as part of a
                      $20.2 billion spending bill for the Interior Department.
                      The congressional debate over the forest bill and the
                      firefighting money took on urgency because of the devastating
                      wildfires that this week have destroyed more than 2,600 homes and
                      blackened 730,000 acres across southern California.
                      "There is a tremendous lesson in these fires. That the land has
                      to be managed," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a leading
                      co-sponsor of the compromise forest bill. The Senate approved it by
                      a vote of 80-14.
                      The compromise bill must now be merged with legislation passed
                      by the House in May, which would allow more aggressive and more
                      wide spread tree cutting than approved by the Senate.
                      The legislation, a modified version of President Bush's
                      "healthy forest" initiative, calls for establishing expedited
                      procedures for tree thinning on 20 million acres of federal forests
                      that are especially susceptible to fire threat and in many cases
                      are close to populated areas.
                      The bill would authorize, subject to future appropriations, $760
                      million a year for forest management, more than double current
                      spending. About half the money would be earmarked for forests
                      situated in areas where wild lands begin to merge with populated
                      areas.
                      Environmentalists have criticized the legislation because it
                      would allow forest-thinning without environmental reviews and with
                      limited - and in some cases no - judicial review. They accused
                      lawmakers of using the Western wildfires to open federal forests to
                      new logging, including the cutting of mature trees.
                      Feinstein and other supporters of the bill rejected the
                      criticism and said the compromise was designed to limit logging to
                      only the most at-risk forest lands out of the 190 million acres of
                      federal forests. They said it specifically includes protection for
                      large old-growth forests.
                      "For those who have been so worried that we're going to log the
                      forests to death. They have watched them burn to death," said Sen.
                      Pete Domenici, R-N.M. "It's high time we fix it."
                      Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said old growth forests will continue to
                      be protected. "Even with respect to the amount of acreage to be
                      thinned, it is a fraction of the work necessary in high risk
                      areas," he said.
                      The Bush administration supported the Senate bill and said it
                      would provide "the needed flexibility to manage public lands
                      wisely" and implement a forest management plan "good for both the
                      environment and our economy."
                      The firefighting funds approved by the House by a 216-205 vote
                      would provide $800 million for battling wildfires, an increase of
                      nearly $300 million over the current budget. It also would allocate
                      $937 million this fiscal year for activities such as tree thinning
                      aimed at reducing the wildfire threat.
                      Supporters of the "healthy forest" bill in the Senate argued
                      that a buildup of dead trees, brush and undergrowth has aggravated
                      the fire threat and resulted in the kinds of wildfires that have
                      devastated much of the West in recent years including the current
                      fires in California and Colorado.
                      During the day, a series of amendments came up seeking to
                      further limit the tree thinning program. But each was defeated as
                      was a proposal by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., to funnel more of the
                      forest protection fund to areas close to populated areas.
                      A proposal to limit the program to five years, offered by Sen.
                      Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, was defeated 61-31. Domenici said the job of
                      improving forest health to significantly reduce the threat of
                      wildfires could take 15 years or more.

                      (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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                      Comment


                      • #12
                        KOOSKIA, Idaho (AP) - Environmentalists claim the Forest Service
                        unnecessarily cut old-growth timber to fight the Slims fire in
                        north-central Idaho this summer, and one federal official concedes
                        the assigned crew may have been overzealous.
                        Ken Castro, fire management officer for the Nez Perce National
                        Forest, said resources specialists are looking at the area along
                        Meadow Creek near the Selway River to determine if there should be
                        an investigation into cutting scores of cedar trees up to four feet
                        in diameter.
                        Castro said the trees were cut to protect the crews fighting the
                        fire that burned more than 14,000 acres and cost the government
                        over $21 million to fight.
                        Many of the trees that were cut were rotten in the core and were
                        being held up by an outer shell no more than eight inches thick, he
                        said.
                        But Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League says a
                        number of the trees had little rot and questions the need for a
                        more than 20 miles of fire line - some up to 30 feet wide - on a
                        fire that probably should never have been fought.
                        "This was a totally natural mosaic burn in a roadless area with
                        the biggest threat of it burning into the Selway-Bitterroot"
                        Wilderness, Oppenheimer said. "I have a hard time convincing
                        myself there was justification to dump $21 million on this fire and
                        build 22 miles of fire line."
                        But Castro argued the fire was too risky to let burn. Foresters
                        feared it would gain momentum and jump from the Meadow Creek
                        drainage into the American and Red River drainages, where insects
                        left the forests dying and tinder dry, he says.
                        Elk City and scattered home sites in the area would have been
                        difficult to save if the flames had made it into the
                        bark-beetle-infested forests, and historic weather patterns put the
                        chance of that happening at 38 percent, Castro said.
                        The fire line was put in to foreclose that possibility, he said.
                        Although the fire burned for more than two months, no structures
                        were lost.
                        But Oppenheimer wants an investigation and disciplinary action
                        against the team of firefighters who made what he calls an
                        excessive timber cut.
                        "The most important thing that can come out of this is to make
                        sure this kind of abuse does not occur in the future," he said.

                        (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Why don't we just burn all the forests and when the hippies bitch tell them they should have supported the bill that would have saved them, instead suing and protesting and lobbying to serve their own self serving agenda.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Funding in question...already??

                            US Forest Service lacks funds for fires-lawmakers
                            By Christopher Doering
                            WASHINGTON(Reuters) - The U.S. Forest Service is
                            facing a serious threat of wildfires this summer, but the
                            agency underestimated the firefighting money it needs and will
                            have to shift millions of dollars from other programs to make
                            up the shortfall, Senate lawmakers said Tuesday.
                            Firefighters are already battling six fires in Southern
                            California, an early start to the annual wildfire season that
                            was fanned by lingering drought, hot temperatures and wind.
                            Forest officials told a Senate Energy subcommittee hearing
                            that a build-up of brush, six years of drought in some Western
                            states, and insect-damaged trees "have resulted in a greater
                            potential for large wildfires" in 2004.
                            In the last five years, the Forest Service has borrowed
                            nearly $3 billion from other accounts to fight wildfires,
                            according to lawmakers.
                            "That's a pretty good indication that you're falling short
                            in your requests," said Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky
                            Republican, who said the Forest Service should ask Congress for
                            more fire-fighting money in its annual budget request. "That's
                            the answer, whether you like it or whether you don't."
                            Lawmakers said the annual borrowing results in poor
                            management of public lands by minimizing the impact of projects
                            with long-term benefits such as thinning at-risk forests.
                            Mark Rey, the U.S. Agriculture Department's undersecretary
                            of natural resources, said the department would continue to
                            borrow from other projects or ask Congress for extra money to
                            pay for fighting fires if they exceed their annual budget.
                            "I don't disagree" that the department needs to find better
                            ways to pay for suppressing wildfires, said Rey. "But it's the
                            only avenue available."
                            Rey said it was difficult to estimate how much funding will
                            be needed to combat wildfires because annual budgets are
                            submitted more than a year before the corresponding wildfire
                            season begins.
                            The Forest Service, part of the USDA, and the Interior
                            Department, which work together to fight forest fires, are
                            asking for a total of $2.46 billion for fire-fighting programs
                            in fiscal 2005, an increase of $60 million from the previous
                            year.
                            Their budget proposal would ask Congress for $760 million
                            to implement President Bush's forest management plan signed
                            into law last year. The funding would allow forest managers to
                            thin about 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares) of forest
                            land, up from 1 million acres in 2000.
                            In the last three years, more than 15 million acres (6.1
                            million hectares) of U.S. land was burned by wildfires.
                            Drought conditions now exist in more than 50 percent of the
                            West. In California, more than a dozen homes have been
                            destroyed and thousands of people have been evacuated due to
                            six fires that have ravished more than 20,000 acres this
                            month.
                            The Forest Service estimated a total of 190 million acres
                            (77 million hectares) of forest land in the United States are
                            susceptible to fires.
                            REUTERS

                            Reut16:38 05-11-04
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                            • #15
                              Audit: Larger-than-expected cost of wildfires hurts fire-prevention
                              programs
                              By ANGIE WAGNER
                              Associated Press Writer
                              LAS VEGAS (AP) - Federal agencies responsible for fighting
                              wildfires have borrowed so much money from other forest programs
                              that fire-prevention efforts have suffered, according to
                              congressional auditors.
                              In the past five years, the Forest Service and Interior
                              Department transferred more than $2.7 billion from other programs
                              because they repeatedly underestimated how much money would be
                              needed to pay for firefighting, the report by the General
                              Accounting Office said.
                              Because of the frequent borrowing, officials were forced to
                              delay projects to prune some forests of dead tress. Wildfire
                              training courses were also postponed, along with the purchase of
                              extra firefighting equipment.
                              The June 2 report by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress,
                              came as no surprise to lawmakers who have complained for years
                              about insufficient wildfire funding.
                              Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho said the report confirms
                              his suspicions that "we are robbing Peter to pay Paul."
                              "Each year we are told that the administration's budget request
                              will meet firefighting costs," said Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman
                              of New Mexico. "Yet each year the administration's budget request
                              proves inadequate to cover those needs, resulting in the chaos of
                              having to transfer money from one account to another to make up for
                              the shortfall."
                              The report suggested the Forest Service and Interior Department
                              improve the estimates of firefighting costs and said Congress
                              should consider alternatives, such as creating a reserve account.
                              The agencies now rely on a 10-year average of firefighting costs
                              as the basis for budget requests. That practice was criticized by
                              the GAO, which said it resulted in estimates well below what was
                              needed.
                              The cost of fighting wildfires has exceeded appropriated funds
                              almost every year since 1990. In 2002 and 2003, the government
                              spent more than $1 billion fighting fires.
                              The agencies, in written responses, agreed with the report, but
                              the Interior Department defended use of the 10-year average,
                              calling it "a reasonable and durable" method of budgeting.
                              The department did say it is working with the Forest Service to
                              develop a new statistical forecasting system to better predict
                              costs.
                              The frequent borrowing often meant that forest projects were
                              delayed, sometimes allowing fire risks to worsen, auditors said.
                              For example, the government had planned to remove 150 acres of
                              trees infested with spruce beetles from Colorado's White River
                              National Forest last year. But $111,000 was transferred from that
                              project to fight fires, and now the beetle infestation has grown to
                              230 acres.
                              The project would now cost an extra $24,000, and the increased
                              number of dead trees, along with dry conditions, only raises the
                              risk of wildfires.
                              The borrowing practices also strained relationships with states,
                              nonprofit groups and communities, the report said. Congress
                              reimbursed agencies about 80 percent of the money borrowed.
                              House subcommittees recently approved adding $2.6 billion for
                              fighting wildfires in 2005, a near 10 percent increase over this
                              year's levels.
                              ---
                              EDITOR'S NOTE - Angie Wagner is the AP's Western regional
                              writer, based in Las Vegas.
                              ---
                              On the Net:
                              GAO report: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04612.pdf
                              Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
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