Washington, DC - Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch supported an amendment to an Interior Department spending bill today erasing plans to spend $2.8 million in badly-needed forest fire mitigation funding in Washington, D.C. The nation's capital, an area with no national forests, planned to use the funding for park activities and festivals. The amendment written by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) effectively frees up the stimulus money to ensure that it can spent where it is needed most.
"It is unreasonable that federal firefighting money was going into areas where there are no forest fires," Crapo said. "In this time of tight budget dollars, it would seem to be a priority is to put the money where it is needed."
"This is the right thing to do. When funds are budgeted for forest fire mitigation that is where they need to be spent. There is a real need for those funds here in the western states. It is not acceptable to have bait-and-switch tactics used with the taxpayers' dollar with any funds. This amendment puts a stop to it in this instance," said Risch. "Assigning nearly three million dollars in forest fire money to Washington, D.C. is exactly the kind of wasteful spending I feared when Congress bypassed the regular committee process in its rush to pass the Stimulus bill."
A report in the Washington Times newspaper notes the Boise-based National Interagency Fire Center's definition of wildland fires wouldn't even apply in the Washington, DC area. Nationwide, forest fires have burned more than five million acres this year.
"This decision once again shows the need for Congressional oversight regarding any spending," Crapo said. "Decisions like this, involving stimulus money, need the light of day. Fortunately, the Senate approved this decision quickly and in a bipartisan fashion."