FS Budget & Sequestration 101


To (sort of) understand the sequestration and its effects on the Forest Service, here’s a crash course in the Forest Service’s budget.

FS spending is divided into the following budget accounts (FY2013):

National Forest System ($1.63 billion): This money is used primarily to pay salaries & benefits for the 40,000 folks who do day-to-day national forest management.

Fire ($2.5 billion): About half is spent on having an infrastructure reading to fight fires and the other half on actually fighting the fires, with very large fires accounting for most of these costs. These proportions can vary greatly from one year to another.

Research ($0.3 billion): Studying how things tick.

Capital Improvement ($0.45 billion): Fixing built stuff.

State and Private Forestry ($0.26 billion): Cutting & burning worthless wood.

Permanent Appropriations ($0.65 billion): Payments to states (e.g., Secure Rural Schools) is the big ticket. Also where most of your recreation fee dollars are spent. A potpourri of other spending tidbits is lumped in here, too, e.g., salvage sale money laundering.

Land Acquisition ($0.08 billion): House R’s don’t want to buy any more federal land, so we don’t anymore.

Trust Funds ($0.08 billion): Green groups don’t want to cut any trees, so we don’t anymore, which has pretty much zeroed out K-V and other trust funds.

Take these numbers and subtract 5% and that gives you the FY2013 spending amount if the sequestration dollars stay sequestered to the end of the fiscal year. On a month-to-month basis, however, actual spending will reflect a 10% cut because federal agencies have been spending at the regular, un-sequestered rate since the beginning of the fiscal year (10/1/12). We’re halfway through the fiscal year, so agencies have to double their cuts to stay within the caps.

How the FS distributes the cuts WITHIN these budget accounts is anyone’s guess.

8 thoughts on “FS Budget & Sequestration 101”

  1. I think that within some, if not most Forest Service units spending has been reduced since October in anticipation of the “sequester”, so the change in spending will probably be less than 10%. I don’t know specifics, but this might be why the FS thinks it can avoid furloughs.

    I wonder how hiring will be affected by the budget cuts.

  2. Andy, thanks for your helpful simplification, except, you remind me of a couple of recent former bosses in terms of an apparent lack of appreciation for some of the work of State and Private Forestry.

    Forest Health Protection- pays for entomologists and pathologists to help people with sick trees and to keep down invasive diseases and pests (protecting forests from insects and disease).

    Urban and community forestry- helping communities have trees, good for human health, reduces energy expenditures.

    Cooperative Forestry- includes the Forest Legacy Program

    The Forest Legacy Program (FLP), a Federal program in partnership with States, supports State efforts to protect environmentally sensitive forest lands. Designed to encourage the protection of privately owned forest lands, FLP is an entirely voluntary program. To maximize the public benefits it achieves, the program focuses on the acquisition of partial interests in privately owned forest lands. FLP helps the States develop and carry out their forest conservation plans. It encourages and supports acquisition of conservation easements, legally binding agreements transferring a negotiated set of property rights from one party to another, without removing the property from private ownership. Most FLP conservation easements restrict development, require sustainable forestry practices, and protect other values.

    which I think you would approve of…

    Here’s a site that describes many things they do…

    • I was just hitting the most costly items for each budget account. Worthless wood disposal consumes $105 mm (split between federal and non-federal lands); the largest share of S&PF dollars.

      Forest Legacy gets $53 mm, Urban Forestry rakes in $32 mm. There’s also $32 mm for state fire assistance, which helps rural fire departments buy lightly-used fire trucks.

      For a real potpourri of spending, take a look at “Permanent Appropriations.” It’s a catch-all of pet programs with which congressional appropriators have larded up the FS’s budget, including my favorite — $153k to administer Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl licenses.


      BTW, I’ve been skeptical of Forest Legacy’s merits from the outset. GAO needs to take a hard look at what we’re buying, who’s buying it (private NGOs?), and how much money is being raked-off in overhead.

      • Is your “worthless wood disposal” others’ “fuel treatment projects”?

        Where does it list all the projects in “permanent appropriations”?

        • Wood that someone will buy from me is valuable. Wood that I have to pay someone to remove is worthless; in fact, worse than worthless — it costs me.

          See the Forest Service’s FY 2013 Budget starting on page 12-1 for a list of permanent appropriation programs.

  3. I’ve been “furloughed” since December. Of course, there is still collaborative work to do, and money to pay me but…..

    I also hear they are hiring GS-2’s, once again. Yep, “Federal McForestry”!! You’d think that if they are going to continue to hire “tree murderers”, they would be hiring the best “tree murderers” money can buy.


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