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19.3.04

No Firefighter Left Behind

Critics Say Bush's Wildfire-Fighting Budget Too Low

Sen. Conrad Burns joined a chorus of lawmakers who have said the Bush administration's proposed budget for next year does not include enough money for preventing and fighting wildfires.

... The administration's plan calls for a 15 percent boost in wildfire suppression, from $790 million in fiscal year 2004 to $908 million in fiscal year 2005, under the administration's plan for the Interior and Agriculture departments. The departments' hazardous fuels reduction would also be increased from $442 million to $475 million.

The $908 million for wildfire fighting falls short of the $1.4 billion that was spent to fight wildfires in 2002 and is slightly shy of the $1 billion that was needed in 2003.

... Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who also voted for the law, says the $475 million for hazardous fuels reduction is far short of the $760 million that was promised in legislation.

... Burns criticized the proposed budget for cutting state, local and volunteer assistance programs by 42 percent from $132 million in fiscal year 2004 to $77 million in fiscal year 2005.


Wait ... are they suggesting that Bush pushed for a program, but was unwilling to spend enough money to implement it? Nah, that can't be -- after all, after shortchanging education and homeland security, he ought to have plenty of money left over to pay for fire management. He should be particularly able to help out the state and local programs, since devolving environmental management authority to local people has been the keystone of his environmental rhetoric.

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