The U.S. Forest Service’s demands that rural timber counties pay back millions of dollars in federal subsidies under automatic budget cuts have outraged members of Congress from both parties and caused concern in those counties with struggling economies.
Thirty-one members of the House this week sent a letter to the Obama administration protesting demands that they return $17.9 million in revenues that pay for schools, roads, search and rescue operations in rural counties as well as for conservation projects.
Letter from Congress: http://naturalresources.house.gov/uploadedfiles/03-28-13lettertosecvilsack.pdf
Depending on where you stand on idea of States taking over federal land and the “community forest trust” notion, press like the above is either a blessing or a curse. Here in Idaho the idea, for better or worse, it’s gaining traction, regardless of the idea’s ultimate legality.
As an (almost) lifelong resident of a small community I’m torn. I have kids just entering the school system and have already seen and dread the future effects of the budget cuts. As a forester, I can understand the sex-appeal of tapping into the vast acreages of timber to offset to the loss of SRS. Unfortunately, I’m stuck in the middle as a practioner of the NEPA and all the other environmental regs. that need to be adhered to in order to cut a tree off the National Forests these days. The regs aren’t necessarily confictling, per-se, but they aren’t easy to navigate either. Darned if you do, darned if you don’t.
It was a little disheartening for me and some colleagues to see the above press making the front page splash, especially after years of efforts to satisy both sides (more timber harvested in an environmentally benign fashion). Unfortunately, the locals (and certain members of Congress) will continue to blame the FS for a lack of management, and the discontent for the FS and enviro’s (after all they’re the root cause – right!?!) will continue to grow.
I’m starting to think that Andy’s suggestion of a “diabolical plot” to squash the FS might not be so off-the-mark after all.