Fire funding doled unevenly |

Fire funding doled unevenly

LOS ANGELES – Federal funding to reduce the threat of wildfires in California has been distributed mostly to the least populated areas of the state, including part of Tahoe National Forest, according to a newspaper report.

The distribution of fire prevention funds by the U.S. Forest Service comes at a time when national fire policy emphasizes the importance of reducing the threat of wildfires to nearby communities, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

The spending pattern is starkly reflected in the Angeles National Forest, which received less than $500,000 this fiscal year despite being located near millions living in the Los Angeles Basin.

Angeles Forest received less money to reduce hazardous fuel than any other federal forest in the state. In comparison, the Plumas National Forest in Northern California received $9.8 million this fiscal year even though it’s located in a county of 21,000 people.

The neighboring Lassen National Forest collected $8.9 million.

Tahoe National Forest’s Sierraville District received about $1.4 million, said TNF spokeswoman Ann Westling.

The windfall for the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe forests, however, reflects a hard-won triumph for an unusual coalition of environmentalists, loggers and civic leaders. Called the Quincy Library Group, the coalition agreed on a pilot forest thinning project that has been included in the multi-billion dollar National Fire Plan.

“It was passed by Congress almost unanimously,” Eubanks said of the Quincy Library Group effort. “It was recognized as an important pilot project.”

The fire plan is an effort to lessen the wildfire threat in the West, where wild fires have consumed large portions of the landscape in recent years. Funding from the federal fire plan increased fire reduction efforts last year in Plumas, where 21,000 acres were thinned or subjected to controlled burns, and Lassen, where 25,556 acres were treated.

None of the national forests in Southern California, meanwhile, treated more than 4,000 acres. The two Northern California forests are surrounded by communities of a few hundred or a few thousand people, while the Angeles, Cleveland and San Bernardino forests neighbor the second-largest metropolitan region in the country.

”If you look at where fuel reduction works, would do the greatest good for the greatest number, that would probably be in southern California brush forests,” said John Buckley, a former forest firefighter who heads the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center.

Forest Service officials note that funding for Plumas and Lassen was directed by Congress.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who supported the Plumas and Lassen plan, said the pilot project was to reduce the fire risk and provide selective logging.

She defended locating a major forest fire fuels-reduction program in some of the least populated parts of the state.

”It makes sense to carry out the pilot project,” she said. ”It makes sense to have a much bigger program of fire reduction throughout the state.’

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