Doolittle tours fire area, defends forest bill vote |

Doolittle tours fire area, defends forest bill vote

U.S. Representative John Doolittle pushed for more expansive thinning of national forests on Tuesday, while at the same time democratic challengers questioned his support of the primary land owner in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Touring the Angora fire burn area Tuesday afternoon, Doolittle remarked several times about the effectiveness of forest thinning and the lack of major injuries as a consequence of the fire.

“I’ll do what I can for more aggressive thinning,” Doolittle said during the tour. “We got very lucky this time. This should be taken as a warning.”

Improving the aesthetics of the basin was also on the representative’s mind after surveying the thousands of acres of dead and dying trees from Angora Ridge lookout.

“I want to keep Tahoe blue and green, not blue and brown,” the representative said.

Democrats were having none of it on Tuesday morning, saying Doolittle’s vote against the Interior and Environmental Appropriations Bill on June 27 was a true reflection of his stance regarding forest management.

“It’s troubling that while Lake Tahoe, last week, was suffering from a wildfire, Doolittle was voting against funding the institutions charged with caring for our National Parks and National Forest,” said Todd Stenhouse, spokesman for Charlie Brown, Doolittle’s democratic challenger during the 2006 election who has announced his intentions to run in 2008.

The $27 billion bill, which passed despite Doolittle’s objection, included a 10 percent budget increase for the U.S. Forest Service, which oversees the majority of the forest fuels reduction efforts in the basin.

Doolittle defended his record on Tuesday, saying his vote against the bill was a protest against a lack of Democratic support for an amendment to an appropriations bill he introduced. He said the amendment would have secured further funding for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-determination Act.

El Dorado County receives significant funding for schools, roads, and catastrophic wildfire prevention because of the act, which ended in September 2006.

Although a one year extension has been passed by Congress, the act lacks a long-term commitment from the federal government.

Stenhouse felt Doolittle’s amendment was meaningless, saying the bill would need to be authorized by the Agriculture or Resources committee before the funding in the amendment to the appropriations bill would be effective.

Doolittle denied Stenhouse’s claims on Tuesday, saying the process by which he introduced the amendment would still have been helpful to rural counties, despite the lack of long term re-authorization.

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