WASHINGTON - February 5 - Today the Bush administration released a proposed FY2008 Budget for the U.S. Forest Service, which would require the agency sell land holdings in order to pay for many basic conservation and recreation programs. The agency also came under fire for wanting to make double digit cuts in funding for recreation and wildlife programs while also pushing to increase subsidies for commercial timber sales.
Specifically, the draft budget includes language that would require the Forest Service to raise $800 million through land sales and use half of the proceeds for payments to states and half for land acquisition and other programs such as "conservation education, access to public lands, habitat improvement and to cover the administrative costs of disposal." A similar proposal last year met with strong bipartisan opposition from state and federal lawmakers as well as hunting, fishing, and other recreation and conservation groups. To view the official list of potentially eligible lands for sale by the Forest Service, go to: http://www.fs.fed.us/land/staff/spd.html
The Forest Service has also been under fire for a proposal to close thousands of campgrounds, boat launches, and picnic areas, and while the agency has promised to seek public input before making final decisions, the budget proposal reflects the administration's desire to pay for core programs in part by closing facilities.
Also buried in the budget proposal is language that would significantly increase subsidies for commercial timber harvesting. The Forest Service aims to increase timber production by over half a billion board feet more than the previous year, almost doubling the timber output in the Northwest alone. Overall, timber subsidies are about the only program to see any increase in funding- costing taxpayers roughly $408 million. Meanwhile, the Forest Service has proposed an 11% funding decrease for both "recreation, wilderness and heritage" and "wildlife and fish management."
In response, the Sierra Club issued the following statement from Executive Director Carl Pope:
"Our National Forests are an important part of our national heritage and they belong to all Americans, including future generations. The Bush administration has no business auctioning them off to the highest bidder for a short term fix.
"There is no reason why the most powerful nation in the world should have to sell off its public parks and forests to pay for core programs that allow people to hunt, fish, and hike and protect sources of clean water. The only explanation is reckless mismanagement and misplaced priorities.
"Rather than selling off or shutting down its core assets, the Forest Service should pull the plug on costly subsidies to the timber industry. If the agency is so desperate that it must sell off its land holdings and close campgrounds, it certainly has no business continuing, let alone increasing, subsidies for commercial timber production. Eliminating that wasteful spending would help to Forest Service focus more on stewardship and less on selling public land."
To read the proposed FY2008 Forest Service Budget, go to:
To view the official list of potentially eligible lands for sale by the Forest Service, go to: