USFS programs to be considered one line item in the new budget

According to a blurb in the Federal Times.com (see full quote pasted below) all the USFS programs will now be considered one line item in the national budget. I like the idea that they are selling this on, a more holistic approach to forest management, however, it could lead to easier and more far reaching budget cuts. By this I mean, without individual programs listed it becomes easier to shrink the budgets without concern for what programs get the cuts. I like the idea that the programs will be looked at as they relate to each other, i.e. timber management and its affect on wildlife and habitat, connecting the dots so to speak. But, this approach is not precluded by budgetary consolidation. Can’t these programs be holistic without budgetary concerns? I think this is a classic example of pushing responsibility down the chain of command so as to remove culpability when blame is passed around later. So next year when they cut the budget, and programs suffer it will be up to the policy wonks to decide what gets cut. No political blood gets spilled on capital hill, and its the environment and the America people’s public resources that suffer. NICE!

The Agriculture Department’s Forest Service plans to merge three programs next year to better protect forests against the effects of climate change.

Tim Tidwell, chief of the Forest Service, said the merger will enable Forest Service managers to consider all aspects of forest maintenance and care — timber harvesting, tree health, watershed health, wildlife and fisheries, and vegetation — within a single program.

Creating “a single budget line item … will encourage folks to look at the [total] landscape” of forest management, Tidwell said in an interview.

The program merger is included in the president’s $5.4 billion Forest Service budget proposed for 2011, which would represent a $61 million increase over this year’s budget.

Cecilia Clavet, a policy analyst at the Forest Service, said the move will enable agency managers to “start thinking holistically about restoration of the forest and leaning away from strict timber management.”

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he is pleased with the budget because it includes “significant improvements” in funding to fight wildfires.”

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