USFS budget cuts likely to affect fire, forest management- Missoulian Story

Thanks to Rob Chaney for delving into this mystery..

Here is the link and below is an excerpt.

On the forest management side, Vilsack’s letter predicted the closure of up to 670 campgrounds and other recreation sites and the “reduction” of 35 Forest Service law enforcement officers. It didn’t explain if those reductions meant people would be fired, furloughed or not hired.

Timber harvests would be cut about 15 percent in 2013, from 2.8 billion board feet to 2.379 billion. The agency also would “restore 390 fewer stream miles, 2,700 acres of lake habitat and improve 260,000 fewer acres of wildlife habitat.”

That sounds like the kind of work performed by Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Projects such as Montana’s Southwest Crown Collaborative. But Pyramid Mountain Lumber resource manager Gordy Sanders said he’d not heard of any change in the many CFLRP projects the Seeley Lake mill was involved in.

“We look forward to the Forest Service performing in developing projects, doing the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) work and doing the project just like always,” Sanders said. “We fully expect them to produce. They’re incredibly important piece of the overall supply for all these family-owned mills.”

Vilsack’s letter gave no indication of what this might do to Forest Service or other Agriculture Department workers.

By comparison, blogger Bill Gabbert posted a copy of a Feb. 22 letter from Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to Department of Interior employees stating “thousands of permanent employees will be furloughed … for periods of time up to 22 work days.”

The letter also stated “Many of our seasonal employees will be furloughed, have delayed starts, or face shortened employment periods. In some cases, we will not have the financial resources to hire seasonal employees at all.”

Salazar’s letter also warned of deep cuts to the department’s youth hiring this year. Montana Conservation Corps Director Jono McKinny said he was still waiting for details at a crucial time of the year.

“We have hired our crew leaders for the year, and we’re training them now,” McKinny said. “We will have 250 young people serving in AmeriCorps this summer, and another 240 serving in our summer youth programs. This is when we start negotiating projects, in March and April. If those projects aren’t there, we’re going to need to scale back dramatically. Those projects are two-thirds of our budget.”

Sharon’s take: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there are two sets of highly paid folks (Interior and Agriculture) sitting in a cascading set of meetings, planning on dealing with sequestration on closely related work (e.g., fire crews) in potentially uncoordinated ways. One is more open, the other less so. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Leave a Comment