GAO on Forest Fuels Reduction Activities

October 30, 2003
12:00 AM
With terrible fires burning in the Western U.S., and with the Senate again debating ways to reduce risks from those kinds of wildfires, the GAO yesterday released the final of a Bingaman-requested study that examines Forest Service decisions involving fuels reduction activities. The Senate will resume debating H.R. 1904 later today, and this report will be helpful in framing the discussion accurately and honestly. This gist of the study is that GAO found that, despite the claims of some in Congress, environmental laws, lawsuits and citizen appeals are not an impediment to reducing the threat of wildfires and do not cripple fuels reduction activities. In fact, the data shows that the vast majority of forest-thinning projects done in the last two years were undertaken without delay. “These findings validate my view that the major obstacle constraining our thinning efforts is a lack of federal funding, due in part to the Forest Service’s habit of robbing the forest-thinning account to cover other agency costs,” said Sen. Bingaman. “The report also points out that the Forest Service continues to focus its thinning efforts in areas far away from homes and communities, which means that the agency is not doing enough to protect people and property.” The 96-page report, “Forest Service Appeals and Litigation,” is GAO-04-52. # # #