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Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today chaired a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2009 budget request for the Forest Service. Senator Feinstein chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

During her opening remarks, Senator Feinstein touched on the following topics: the Administration’s inadequate budget request for the Forest Service; California firefighting retention issues; drug eradication on National Forest lands; the restoration of Lake Tahoe; and Quincy Library Group’s timber management plan.

Following is the prepared text of Senator Feinstein’s opening remarks:

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Interior Subcommittee's oversight hearing on the Administration’s fiscal year 2009 budget request for the Forest Service.

I’d like to welcome Mark Rey, the Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell.  They are accompanied by Lenise Lago, the budget director for the Forest Service.  Thank you for joining us, and we look forward to hearing your testimony.

Because the Forest Service manages 20 percent of the land in California, this agency and its budget are incredibly important to my state from an environmental protection, recreation and public safety perspective.  Therefore, any budget proposal that is less than adequate is a real problem for California.

Keeping that in mind, I'd just like to note that overall, the Administration’s request totals $4.109 billion.  That’s a cut of $379 million — a full 8 percent — from the 2008 level.

In reality, though, the cuts are much deeper.  Factor in the $77 million needed to fund fixed cost increases and the $148 million increase needed to cover the 10-year fire suppression average, and the Forest Service budget is $600 million less than what is needed just to break even. 

Bottom line here is that under the Administration’s proposal, the Forest Service is being cut nearly 15 percent.

  • Specifically, firefighter readiness is cut 12 percent.
  • Hazardous fuels reduction work is cut 4 percent.
  • Law enforcement programs are cut 13 percent.
  • Construction and maintenance programs are cut 15 percent.
  • Recreation programs are cut 10 percent.
  • Research programs are cut 8 percent.

And on, and on, and on.

Frankly, I just don't see how anyone could consider this a serious budget proposal.

So rather than take time here today to go through the budget line by line, let me just say for the record that I plan to work with Senator Allard and the other Members of our subcommittee to undo these proposed cuts and restore the Forest Service budget to a reasonable level.

What I hope to focus on in the question and answer period then are particular issues that face my State.

I'd like to talk about what progress the agency is making on Lake Tahoe restoration, what’s happening with respect to firefighter retention, particularly in California, what can be done to overcome the challenges of implementing the Quincy Library Group pilot project, and what the agency is doing with the additional funds I provided this year to eradicate the epidemic of marijuana gardens on national forest lands.

Before all that, though, I will first turn to our distinguished Ranking Member, Senator Allard, for any opening remarks he may wish to make.”