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Big fires prompt big budget. (Clippings).

According to a statement from the U. S. Department of Interior, President Bush was expected to propose S698.7 million for wildfire prevention and suppression and "Healthy Forests" initiatives in fiscal year 2004, according to the Department of Interior. That's a S45 million (7 percent) increase over last year's proposal.

The FY 2004 request includes continued funding for hazardous fuels treatment at $186.2 million--a 400 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2000 spending. The increase is intended to help lessen the risk of catastrophic wildfire on 307,000 high-priority acres in the wild-land-urban interface and on 768,000 additional acres.

The budget request calls for $282.7 million for fire preparedness, $195.3 million for fire suppression, $24.5 million for rehabilitating burned areas, and $10 million in fire assistance for rural areas.

The 2002 wildfire season, one of the longest and most grueling in U.S. history, burned 7.1 million acres of public and private land, more than twice the annual 10-year average. The fire season caused the death of 21 firefighters, forced more than 100,000 citizens from their homes, destroyed more than 3,000 structures, and devastated wildlife species and habitat. Hundreds of millions of trees were killed.

"We are facing a crisis of forest health of unprecedented proportions," Interior Secretary Gail Norton said in the release. "A century of fire suppression and forest management policies have left our forests with too many trees and trees that are small and unhealthy."

The U.S. Department of Interior estimates that about 190 million acres of public land and surrounding communities are at increased risk of extreme fire because of overgrown forests and fuel loads. More than 35 million acres are thought to be infested by fire-prone invasive species and noxious weeds.
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Title Annotation:FY 2004 federal budget for wildfire prevention and suppression
Author:Woodsen, Mary
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2003
Words:294
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