USA: Bush Seeks Emergency Wildfire Fund

August 29, 2002

Source: Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A week after touring a burned out forest in Oregon, President Bush asked Congress on Thursday to come up with $825 million in emergency funds to help the nation recover from one of its worst forest fire seasons ever.
The request also came two weeks after Bush, citing the need for spending restraint, blocked $5.1 billion in emergency funds that Congress had approved as part of a $28.9 homeland security package. Among the money held up was $50 million in disaster assistance for fires and $150 million to help
the nation’s fire departments. 
The White House Office of Management and Budget said the funds were needed to “cover the extraordinary damage caused by fires on federal public lands this year.” Six million acres of forest land have already burned this year, more than twice the 10-year average.  
It said the money would pay for firefighting activities in 41 states, with $636 million going to the Forest Service and $189 million for the Bureau of Land Management.
Last week, Bush stood on a fire-devastated mountain peak in Oregon and announced a plan to prevent forest fires through more active management and thinning. Environmentalists said the president was using the bad fire season to open up more federal lands to timber companies.
The emergency funds sought by the president would be for fiscal year 2002, which ends on Sept. 30, and congressional Democratic aides questioned whether there was time to consider another spending bill for this year when Congress was focused on approving bills for the new fiscal year.
Congress has yet to send the president one of the 13 spending bills it must pass each year to run the federal government. 
The House last month approved a fiscal 2003 spending bill for the Interior Department and related agencies that includes $2.2 billion for fire fighting and suppression, $146 million more than the White House requested. 


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