Budget would see slight increase under 2013 request
Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
Published: Monday, February 13, 2012
The Obama administration requested a slight bump in Forest Service funding in fiscal 2013, including an increase for wildfire fighting.
The agency’s $4.861 billion request would be a $15.5 million increase compared to current funding levels.
The request would fund the collaborative forest landscape restoration program at $40 million, the maximum authorized amount and on par with current funding levels. The program enjoys widespread support from conservation groups, the timber industry and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“The president’s budget continues to emphasize the Forest Service’s ability to restore our nation’s forests through landscape scale efforts,” says the administration’s Agriculture Department budget summary.
“These efforts include targeting scarce resources to on the ground activities, implementing a comprehensive approach to restoration and maintenance of sustainable landscapes, streamlining programs to improve forest management efficiency [and] reducing wildfire risk.”
The budget requests $1.97 billion for wildland fire management, an increase of $236 million above current levels. The budget also calls for $315 million for the FLAME wildfire suppression reserve fund, which is roughly even with the 2012 level.
But the budget requests $346 million for capital improvement and maintenance, a dip of $48 million below current funding levels.
Click here to read the Forest Service’s 2013 budget overview.
Here’s an article about putting payments to counties in the President’s budget
Obama puts NW timber funds in budget
Making the five-year extension a mandatory spending item is ‘solid step,’ says Sen. Wyden
February 14, 2012
By Paul Fattig
President Barack Obama’s extension of the safety net payments for counties dependent on timber dollars in his new federal budget proposal is a good start, says U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
“It is a solid step in the right direction,” Wyden said Monday in a telephone interview with the Mail Tribune.
The proposal amounts by year
Total amounts that would be allocated each year under the plan
First year $328 million
Second year $294 million
Third year $195 million
Fourth year $145 million
Fifth year $113 million
“It has three things that are very important: mandatory spending, a five-year budget for the counties and a specific funding amount.”
In his $3.8 trillion plan announced Monday for the federal budget year that begins Oct. 1, Obama calls for mandatory funding for the “timber” counties in the West for the next five federal fiscal years.
For the first year, the counties would receive about $328 million, followed by $294 million the second year, $195 million the third, $145 million the fourth and $113 million the final fiscal year, Wyden said.
In the past, county payment extensions were designated in the federal budget as discretionary spending, meaning they could be cut.
However, mandatory spending is controlled by laws other than the annual appropriations acts, with funding provided without requiring further action by Congress, according to Wyden’s staff.
While noting that including the payments in the president’s budget doesn’t guarantee its extension in the long budgetary process, having the presidential backing is significant, Wyden said.
The extension would help budget-strapped counties bridge the gap until a final solution is found, said Wyden, who has been calling for a temporary extension of the timber payments while a long-term solution is worked out.
“The proposal isn’t perfect, but it gives us something to work with while making it clear that abandoning rural communities is not an option,” he said, adding the Oregon delegation prefers more generous funding levels.
The Secure Rural Schools Act of 2000, co-authored by Wyden, provided timber payments to counties but it is expiring, leaving many rural counties in Western Oregon without adequate funding. Since it became law, it has produced some $3 billion for 700 counties in 41 states, with Oregon receiving the lion’s share.
“I feel very strongly that this is a historic obligation,” Wyden said of counties receiving a share of revenues from federal timberlands within their borders in lieu of taxes.
“This came about because more than 100 years ago, the country said we needed a national forest system,” he added. “If you live in Cleveland or Atlanta, you can come to Oregon to visit our federal forests. In recognition, the federal government said it would be there for help with schools and roads. There is a historic obligation.”