Thursday, August 30, 2012

Budget cuts strangle Forest Service's ability to fight 'catastrophic' forest fires, Idaho paper says

The U.S. Forest Service hasn't been exempt from budget cuts in recent years, and the editorial staff of The Idaho Statesman outlines some reasons why taking money from the agency is leaving it with little resources to fight massive forest fires that have been devastating the West in recent years.

"Congress raided $200 million from a Forest Service’s firefighting fund in 2011, and grabbed another $240 million this year," the staff writes. "That leaves the Forest Service looking for ways to reduce firefighting costs — before they eat into the rest of the agency’s budget." The Service decided to aggressively fight fires "from the outset" this year in the hope it can save money by ending fires early. That approach "is the Forest Service's equivalent of kicking the can down the road," they write.

Stopping small fires could stop larger fires in the short run, but they write, it leaves forests with lots of undergrowth that increases the risk of "catastrophic fire" later. "And so, in a delicious little government irony, the Forest Service is making decisions that might compromise the health of the forest -- in order to preserve its budget for initiatives such as 'forest health,' the use of logging and prescribed burns to thin out fire-prone lands." (Read more)

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