Funding to prevent forest fires in Black Hills could be cut - KOTA Territory News

Funding to prevent forest fires in Black Hills could be cut

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Across the board, the Federal Government is spending less and less on preventing wildfires, even though areas like Colorado are experiencing destructive forest fires.

The Obama Administration proposes a 31 percent cut to the main program that clears brush and overgrown trees to prevent forest fires. That program is already funded at lower levels than 11 years ago. Automatic budget cuts that kicked in March have made the gap worse. In the Black Hills National Forest that means that half the total budget has to go to fighting fires rather than preventing them.

Frank Carroll, who recently retired from the Forest Service, calls it a crisis situation. He says the Forest Service is stuck under the thumb of the President and Congress. And until a new approach to forest management is found the Black Hills National Forest is in great danger.

"So until those people can change the mind of the Congress, change the mind of the President, the Forest Service is stuck doing the best job that it can. In the Black Hills they are doing a tremendous job, but it's too little and it's too late," said Carroll.

Federal Fire Officials say the problem is that an increasing chunk of their budget is eaten up simply trying to put out the giant blazes. Eight of the nine worst fire years in U.S. history have been recorded since 2000.

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