President Bush yesterday signed the Department of Interior and Related Agencies Appropriation Act for fiscal 2002, which includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service’s budget of $4.1 billion. The Forest Service received increases for research and development as well as recreation, heritage and wilderness programs.
“Restoring forest and rangeland health, making lands accessible to the recreating public and protecting lives and communities from wildfire are our top priorities,” said Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. “Forest Service employees will spend these dollars wisely and efficiently in maintaining and restoring the health, diversity and productivity of America’s national forests and grasslands.”
The Department of Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act passed Congress by votes of 380-28 in the U.S. House and 95-3 in the U.S. Senate Oct. 17. While the Forest Service is now an agency under USDA, it was once under DOI. When the agency was moved from DOI to USDA in 1905, its funding mechanism remained attached to DOI.
The largest increase of almost $25 million went to the Forest Service’s capital improvement and maintenance program to decrease its maintenance backlog. Monies will be used to improve the agency’s infrastructure, including the construction and restoration of buildings and the maintenance of roads.
The measure also increases funding for Forest Service recreation, heritage and wilderness programs by more than $15 million; forest and range research by more than $12 million; forest products by $11 million; and vegetation and water management by almost $9 million.
The bill fully funds the President’s request for implementation of the National Fire Plan while adding more than $50 million for rehabilitation and restoration of burned lands, plus additional $200 million to pay for unanticipated fire suppression costs.