15 Sep 2009, 9:52pm
Federal forest policy The 2009 Fire Season
by admin

Firefighting Funds Diverted to DC Park Fests

Here’s a novel way to spend federal firefighting dollars: on festivals in Washington DC urban parks. From the The Washington Times:

EXCLUSIVE: Forest fire funds aid D.C. festivals

By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, September 11, 2009 [here]

Even with forest fires raging out West, the U.S. Forest Service this week announced it will spend nearly $2.8 million in forest-fire-fighting money in Washington — a city with no national forests and where the last major fire was probably lit by British troops in 1814.

The D.C. aid is going to two programs: $90,000 is slated for a green summer job corps, but the vast majority of the money — $2.7 million — is going to Washington Parks & People, which sponsors park festivals and refurbishes urban parks in the Washington area.

Forest Service officials didn’t return messages left seeking comment on why they spent money from their “wildland fire mitigation” stimulus fund in Washington, but members of Congress said city parks don’t deserve the money while fires are scorching millions of acres of land and owners are losing homes.

Rep. Wally Herger is from NorCal. His district includes Siskiyou. Klamath, and Trinity Counties, all hit hard in 2008 by 1,000 square miles of forest fires. The WT quotes Herger:

“As catastrophic wildfires continue to burn throughout the West, destroying people’s homes and businesses in the process, funds that should be used to thin our overgrown forests and protect the public are being frivolously spent on park restoration,” said Rep. Wally Herger, a California Republican whose district has seen some of the worst fires. “While the administration is spending millions of taxpayer dollars on improving picnic grounds, communities and citizens’ lives tragically remain at risk.”

The recipient of the firefighting funds is a non-governmental org:

The $2.7 million in stimulus aid also appeared to come as a surprise to the folks at Washington Parks & People.

“We do not yet know anything beyond the information that we saw on the [Agriculture Department] Web site yesterday,” the group’s executive director, Stephen W. Coleman, said in an e-mail response. The Forest Service is part of the Agriculture Department.

Washington Parks & People is a 19-year-old organization that says its mission is to revitalize “once-forgotten parks and communities throughout the inner capital region.”

The Washington Parks & People website is [here]. They explain themselves thusly:

About Parks & People

Washington Parks & People began 19 years ago with Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park, receiving the National Park Service’s highest organizational award for leading the transformation of the single most violent park in the capital region into one of its safest. We now help revitalize once forgotten parks and communities throughout the inner capital region by working with a wide variety of people, agencies, and organizations. Parks & People leads the Down By the Riverside Campaign at Marvin Gaye Park in the Watts Branch stream valley.

The money came as a surprise to the happy festival promoters, an unintentional gift from the fire-ravaged West.

Somebody made the funding swap, but nobody knows who, or if they do, they aren’t talking.

The stimulus bill, which passed Congress and was signed by President Obama in February, was designed to create jobs and take care of urgent priorities. The $787 billion package set aside $500 million for the Forest Service for fire mitigation, and included another $15 million for Interior Department firefighting efforts. …

Earlier this year, Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter asking why the agency was sending money to states with no Forest Service land. Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts and Rhode Island all received money, even though they don’t have any national forests.

Mr. Hastings pointed to the wildfires raging in the West and asked for an accounting of how those decisions were made, and how many jobs have been created by the spending. His office said he has not received a response.

Record fires have swept the West in this century, causing hundreds of $billions in damages. The Fed fire budget has been strained to the breaking point, including the cancellation of projects across the country due to transfer of management funds to fire. Half the USFS budget is now spent on fire. Congress has held numerous hearings, USFS brass, the CBO, the OMB, and a multitude of experts have testified, and much consternation has ensued. But one thing everybody agrees with: firefighting monies are in short supply.

Apparently. Or maybe not, since some states without wildfires are cashing on a windfall of dedicated firefighting funds:

Under the new money announced this week, Rhode Island received an additional $449,000 in wildfire suppression money, Delaware received $895,000 and Massachusetts was awarded $4.5 million. The Massachusetts money is slated to go to “Asian Longhorn beetle Area Watershed Health and Ecological Enhancement,” according to the Forest Service announcement.

While those states have state forest land, Washington, D.C., does not, and forest fires are not generally considered a risk.

In fact, according to the National Interagency Fire Center’s definition of wildland fire — which is a fire that consumes undeveloped areas with sparse habitation — Washington can’t even have a wildland fire.

NIFC doesn’t even list the city in its online reports of annual wildland fire statistics.

Nationwide, forest fires have burned more than 5 million acres of land this year.

Is this some accidental aberration? Was there some mistake? Apparently not. In fact, it’s the pattern. Corruption at the highest levels is certainly nothing new to this country:

This is not the first time Washington has received an outsized benefit from stimulus money. Despite being one of the smallest jurisdictions, the capital city has received about $2.3 billion as of late August, or more than 19 states have received, including some with populations five or six times bigger.

So there you go. What else is there to say? We’ve been robbed by our corrupt government, again. The crisis of catastrophic forest fires plaguing the West is just another slush fund for graft to WA DC insiders.

18 Sep 2009, 7:50am
by bear bait

This kind of stunt is business as usual at the USFS. And it has been for decades.

In the 1990’s, I was looking at some timber for a guy in Montana, and I read newspapers wherever I go. In the paper was an announcement of a proposed activity of the Gallatin NF to poison a creek in the Shields River drainage because it had a non-native char, brook trout, in it. The thinking then and now is that this introduced exotic from New England competes with the newly designated “bull trout”, Sal. confluentus, which the fish guys had created out of the Dolly Varden Sal. malmo, a few years prior, the intent, of course, to gain another species to enable ESA sanctions to protect water quality. Zealots all, the USFS was going about cleansing streams of this illegal alien in order that West Slope cutthroat (in the Missouri River drainage) might prosper without competition with brook trout, and bull trout would prosper eating cutthroat. Darwin at its best.

But then it was noted in the proposal that the funds to accomplish this extirpation of brook trout had been made available to Region One through preliminary settlements with Exxon in the Exxon Valdez fiasco and mega oil spill. The money to heal Prince William Sound, the fishermen of that area, had gone to the USFS Chief’s Office, and from there was doled out to areas that had not one frigging thing to do with the oil spill.

The irony, of course, was that corporate reparations for a fish kill, to the US Govt., and the USFS is the land owner of record in much of PWS, ended up being spent KILLING fish in Montana. When the system, the people, are that morally bankrupt, and they have been for three decades, why would anyone think that fuel removal would not be a money pot to dig into for the local congressman or woman, for their District, in a contrived manner to pick up Twinkie wrappers in the park of their choice?

If you someday find out Pittman-Robertson funds from gun and ammo sales are used to retrofit prisons to be able to lethally inject in executions, don’t be surprised. And we elect these dolts term after term, and get little oversight from them of Administration agencies and budgets.



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