From the September 2000 Idaho Observer:

Land acquisition higher priority than fighting fire

Clinton administation removes fire fighting funds at hottest time in history

By Don Harkins

Concerns that the Clinton administration plans to burn down the entire northwest U.S. before he leaves office were intensified when it was learned in July that his administration reduced fire fighting funds from $322 million to $305 million. The Washington Times reported that at the same time, the Clinton administration increased its land acquisitions budget from $15 million last year to $49 million this year.

“[The Clinton Administration's] priorities are using the money for land acquisition and a lot of different things, like building a visitor center at a new monument,” said Les Rosenkrance, former director of the National Interagency Fire Center.

The Clinton administration prescribed a burn that allegedly got out of hand and burned down a significant portion of the state of New Mexico last spring. To visit the U.S. Forest Service website would leave the impression that the division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture charged with maintaining the nation's forests is obsessed with selling the public on the concept of prescribed burning.

Several northwest U.S. newspaper articles over the last several months have outlined the debate of whether or not to burn the forests down to enhance long term forest health. The articles quote official USFS sources on one side of the debate and the needs and desires of ordinary people on the other. Pretending to be balanced reporting, readers are left with the impression that the “experts” at the USFS believe it is in the public's best interest to prescribe burn and that the views of ordinary people are borne out of selfishness.

The Clinton administration has designated nearly one dozen national monuments since 1993 and has drastically increased federal land holdings. As of May, 1992, federal lands being administered by the National Parks Service (NPS) alone totalled 80,115,984.18 acres. As of December 31, 1997, the total acreage controlled by the NPS had swelled to more than 83,000,000 acres. According to U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) statistics, as of September 30, 1996, 24.793 percent of U.S. soil, 563,128,918.2 acres, is under federal control. An interesting note, the 1990 World Almanac listed federal land holdings as “Public Lands Administered by Federal Agencies, whereas the 1999 World Almanac calls federal land holdings “Federally Owned Lands.”

The Washington Times recently reported that the Clinton administration has proposed a greater cut in firefighting funds for next year while increasing land acquisition budgets.

The BLM requested $400 million to fight fires for fire season 2001, a figure which the White House slashed to $297 million. The Washington Times reported that BLM land acquisition funds will be increased from $49 million to $60 million for 2001.

This summer's fire season is one of the hottest in U.S. history having produced nearly 69,000 fires which have burned 5.5 million acres of land in more than a dozen Western states and Florida. The figure is significantly greater than the 10-year average of acreage burned by August 20 which is 2.5 million acres destroyed in 58,000 fires.

The Clinton administration's apparent preference for federal land acquisition over fire suppression is in perfect harmony with the federal land use agenda. Through the Heritage Rivers Initiative, Roadless Areas Initiative, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Man and Biosphere Program and most recently the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, the Clinton administration is attempting to gain control of large expanses of U.S. soil. Through its insistence upon prescribing burns of forests throughout the Northwest, the federal government will have effectively rendered them valueless to the public for at least a generation.

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