Kerry proposes shifting $100M from timber subsidies to forest restoration
VERDI – Democrat John Kerry would cut $100 million in annual government subsidies to the timber industry to pay for a new Forest Restoration Corps that would invest in the long-term health of national forests, his campaign said Tuesday.
Shifting spending from commercial logging operations on federal lands would allow for creation of new jobs while restoring forests, streams and rangelands that have been mismanaged or severely damaged by wildfires, campaign aides told The Associated Press.
The new program reminiscent of the Civilian Conservation Corps President Franklin D. Roosevelt established during the Great Depression is one of the highlights in a three-page plan, “John Kerry’s Forest Plan: Putting Communities First.”
A retired Forest Service official, local Democrats and union firefighters who work for the Nevada Division of Forestry joined campaign officials in unveiling the plan Tuesday at Verdi near the site of a wildfire that burned 1,200 acres on the western edge of Reno two weeks ago along the Nevada-California line.
Similar events were planned Wednesday in Arizona, Colorado and Washington state and on Friday in Oregon, said Sean Smith, Nevada communications director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign.
Among other things, a Kerry administration would pledge to annually budget to cover all federal firefighting costs, make necessary additions to aerial firefighting fleets and focus reduction of fuels in overstocked forests on those areas posing the most immediate threats to communities.
“George Bush has taken advantage of public support for ‘healthy forests’ to enable timber companies to log in remote and pristine areas of our public lands,” the plan states.
Kerry would support “balanced forest management proposals and seek out input from the public rather than this extreme, one-sided approach benefiting big timber companies like the Bush administration has taken,” Smith told AP.
Robert McDowell, who retired 18 months ago after more than 30 years with the Forest Service, most of it at Lake Tahoe, said Kerry recognizes “forest management can benefit our nation’s economy while protecting our watersheds and natural resources.”
“Today, the real cost of firefighting is not reflected in the president’s budget,” he said.
Kerry would support protection proposals like the Clinton administration developed for the 11 national forests of the Sierra “through a collaborative, 10-year process and then subsequently (was) abandoned by the Bush administration,” the plan states.