Forest Service cuts Tongass budget to pay for fires

Posted: Friday, September 13, 2002

PETERSBURG (AP) -- The U.S. Forest Service is making a big cut in the Tongass National Forest budget to help pay for firefighting expenses in Alaska and the Lower 48.

More than $13 million, or about 20 percent of this year's Tongass budget, was reallocated last month, according to Forest Service spokesman Dennis Neill.

''What they're looking at having to do is balance out the total fire expenditures for the Forest Service fighting fires throughout the system,'' he said.

In order to cut expenses, certain projects and planned land acquisitions are being postponed.

That includes the purchase of Sitka's Mount Verstovia and Petersburg Creek from the state Mental Health Lands Trust as well as cabin repairs and maintenance.

About $5 million of the money, allocated for timber sale expenses, was in limbo anyway because of legal challenges.

''We've postponed some cabin reconstruction projects, road maintenance projects and timber sale NEPA analysis on sales that are under Judge Singleton's injunction because we were going to carry that money over anyway. We give the money up and then we get it back when it's time to that kind of work, those kinds of things,'' Neill said.

NEPA is the National Environmental Policy Act.

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