Bryan makes annual run at chopping federal logging budget

RENO, Nev. - Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., has revived his annual attempt to reduce spending on logging of national forests with a new strategy aimed at eroding opposition from other Western senators:

Half of the $30 million saved would go toward reducing fire risks and fighting wildland fires on federal lands.

''Having already experienced one of the worst fire seasons in history last summer, in combination with the already extremely dry conditions in much of the West this year, this additional fire management funding could be extremely helpful,'' Bryan said Monday.

''While the time to reign in the Forest Service's fiscally irresponsible and environmentally damaging timber program has been long past due, it makes even more sense to use these dollars for this year's expected severe fire season,'' he said.

Bryan, who is retiring at the end of this year, has for several years unsuccessfully proposed significant reductions in the Forest Service's timber sale program.

The program covers everything from the planning and preparation of a section of national forest for logging to the actual cutting of the trees and replanting of seedlings.

A vote is expected Tuesday on his latest plan to trim $30 million from next year's proposed $220 million budget. Half of the saved revenue would go to fire management and half be returned to the federal treasury for debt reduction.

The move - proposed as an amendment to the Interior Department's spending bill - would reduce the Forest Service's overall budget from $1.233 billion to $1.203 billion.

''While we have had remarkable success over the last several years in reforming welfare, we have completely neglected the fact that the timber industry continued to receive their corporate handouts,'' Bryan said.

National environmental groups as well as the conservative National Taxpayers Union say the federal logging program costs more money than it returns to the federal treasury, resulting in so-called ''below cost timber sales.''

''Ultimately, the Forest Service should get out of the business of providing government subsidies to the timber industry,'' Bryan said.

In the past, Bryan has proposed that part of the money be spent on debt reduction and part on environmental restoration efforts.

But most senators from the West, including many Democrats, have opposed any effort to reduce the timber sale program, partly because logging revenues are used to finance reforestation efforts.

''Admittedly, it is going to be a tough fight,'' Bryan's press secretary Dave Lemmon said Monday from Washington.

''A lot of Western senators are opposed to touching anything in the timber sale budget. But we're hoping they'll be more receptive to spending more money for what is really needed - fire management,'' he said.

Nearly 2 million acres of forest and rangeland burned in Nevada last summer, an area larger than the state of Delaware.


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