Two articles of interest this morning.. reductions in firefighter hires due to sequestration.. as in the LA Times story here…
Here is an excerpt:
The U.S. Forest Service will hire 500 fewer firefighters this year, the result of “line by line” budget reductions required by Congress, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a conference call with reporters. The reduced staffing also means 50 fewer fire engines will be available, Vilsack said.
Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewel said much of the West would face severe fire danger this summer.
“We will no doubt be seeing some fires of significant size,” Vilsack said.
The Interior Department is also expected to cut its firefighting forces.
The Forest Service hires firefighters in spring and retains them through fall, Tom Harbour, the Forest Service’s national director of fire and aviation management, said in an interview Monday. Last year, when 9.3 million acres burned in the United States, the Forest Service hired 10,500 firefighters. The Interior Department fielded another 2,500.
California is expected to be the most imperiled of the dry Western states. The state this year has received only 25% of the rainfall that it received in the same period for 2012, National Interagency Fire Center fire analyst Jeremy Sullens said. Other states expected to be hit hard are Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon and Idaho, along with portions of other states.
Because of the danger California is in, the Forest Service does not plan to reduce hiring there, Harbour said. The reductions will more likely affect Eastern states, where the danger is less serious this year.
I also saw this here:
The U.S. Forest Service is awarding $772,820 to help national forests improve or implement conservation education programs for kids in 16 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This award is part of the more than $2.26 million dedicated to connecting American kids to Nature. It includes more than $1.49 million in partner contributions, according to a spokesperson for the Forest Service.
“Forest Service conservation education programs inspire young people to start exploring the natural world around them, which develops a life-long appreciation for the environment,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Our partnerships help ensure that we bring the great outdoors to children, whether in an urban or rural setting.”
Remember, the same Forest Service had to ask for money back from States (asked for money back) but is also giving out new grants…
It seems to me that if Congress would let USDA/FS switch among line items.. then we could apply my bureacratic prioritization process, or some other rational process that could be explained to the public.
1. Real danger to people, fish, soil, air, tourism, water storage, and properties. Fires yes, lack of conservation education, not.
2. Critical as to timing– fires this year, either there is real danger of bad fires this year or it’s fire hype.. someone in government should be able to tell the difference. Not so timing-critical is conservation education.
3. Across the government, how many uncoordinated efforts are there? Just in my everyday dealings before I retired, I ran across the National Park Service, NSF and EPA having some form of conservation education. Maybe Congress could ask for volunteers (retirees) from all these agencies (and the others no doubt) to review the different programs (I’m sure other agencies do it as well) and make recommendations for combinations and coordination. They might even be “educating” at cross purposes.
Just to be clear, I have nothing against conservation education, it is a great and important program. I do have something against apparent inability to prioritize and coordinate among federal agencies. And if it would take some freeing action by Congress to allow agencies to do it, then let’s ask Congress to do it.
What are your thoughts? How would you prioritize?