Forest Service resumes prescribed fire program, but some fear new rules will delay projects
A California Forest Service employee cuts down a fallen redwood to a saw mill in Pico Rivera. (Photo by: Steve Rubenstein)
On the day after Christmas, Forest Service Chief Ann Preston delivered a message to California that would be hard for many to remember: the agency wants to open the books on its budget, and that the rules it needs to make those decisions are being rewritten.
“This is a significant overhaul of how we operate and operate under the law,” she said.
The overhaul involves a review of how the Forest Service spends the $11.5 billion it collects in fees each year. The agency spends $2.7 billion annually on the Forest Service’s core mission of managing the nation’s forests and protecting and enhancing their natural resources. The rest is split between a few other core missions and spending the money on a range of environmental and public outreach efforts.
Included in the revision is a program called “reserved timber,” an unusual program that will be used to support small-business timber-related projects that need no federal funding and, therefore, no taxpayer subsidy.
The program will go into effect in January, when the rule finalizing it and the rule finalizing a system by which the Forest Service can transfer forest-products sales permits to nonprofit agencies, begin.
The program is also referred to as “restricted timber” or “federal timber” because it is funded from a line item in the $1.2 billion in sales of federal forests under the Secure Rural Schools & Community Self-Determination Act. It used to be referred to as “restricted project aid,” but with the law changed in 2010, that term has been dropped.
The program, which is being created as a compromise between two parties that used to call it “restricted project aid,” is the first time that the Forest Service has used the phrase “restricted timber” in its mission statement. It is intended to be used for those projects that require no additional cost and no other funding or subsidy.
The revision was done under a law that went into effect in 2010. It amended the law that created the program and reauthorized the Secure Rural Schools & Community Self-Determination Act. The law says the program must be used for “non