Press Releases

Simpson Examines Forest Service Budget Request

Washington, March 14, 2011
“I recognize the value of providing opportunities for people to connect with our forests, National Parks, and amazing natural resources, but it doesn’t make sense to me that we would dramatically increase land acquisition instead of focusing our limited resources on desperately needed efforts to improve forest health,” said Simpson. “At a time when our forests are significantly overstocked and unhealthy, the Forest Service proposes reducing spending on hazardous fuels, forest health, grazing, and fire suppression. Many of these programs support private jobs in rural communities—from ranching and forestry to recreation and wilderness management—and should be a priority.”

 Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Committee, questioned Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell regarding a major shift in priorities for the Forest Service.  The hearing gave Simpson and other subcommittee members the budgetary opportunity to examine President Obama’s budget request for the U.S. Forest Service for FY2012.

“I recognize the value of providing opportunities for people to connect with our forests, National Parks, and amazing natural resources, but it doesn’t make sense to me that we would dramatically increase land acquisition instead of focusing our limited resources on desperately needed efforts to improve forest health,” said Simpson.  “At a time when our forests are significantly overstocked and unhealthy, the Forest Service proposes reducing spending on hazardous fuels, forest health, grazing, and fire suppression.  Many of these programs support private jobs in rural communities—from ranching and forestry to recreation and wilderness management—and should be a priority.”

Chairman Simpson and Chief Tidwell discussed the value of responsible land use in the West to forest management and the impact of the President’s budget request on rural communities.  When Simpson expressed concern about the impact of closing grazing allotments in the Payette National Forest, the Chief pointed out that the livestock industry provides enormous benefits to wildlife habitat and ecosystem management.

Similarly, Simpson expressed appreciation that the Forest Service included funding for the Secure Rural Schools program in the FY12 budget request, but he was concerned that the Administration’s proposal robs from other accounts critical to rural communities in order to do so.  The program’s authorization expires on September 30.  “The Secure Rural Schools program is critical for many rural counties in the west,” said Simpson, “but I am concerned that this proposal moves this program from mandatory to discretionary spending, essentially taking funding away from fire and hazardous fuels reduction, upon which counties in Idaho also depend.”

During the hearing, Simpson also discussed his concern about the Forest Service’s cost recovery program, ongoing travel management planning, and efforts to consolidate budget line items.