USFS faces budget cuts
Last year local Forest Service officials faced a major shortfall in the annual budget and this next fiscal year there will be even less money for operationsThe blame for the major drop in timber funding for both the Ochoco and Deschutes National Forest for the next fiscal year can't be placed on government officials in Washington, D.C. That was one point made clear when the subject was discussed recently.
John Schuyler, Acting Forest Supervisor for the Ochoco National Forest carefully explained the decrease in funding is the result of a reduced timber program. The budget, which Schuyler explained is only a working document at this time and not the final financial plan, funds the Ochoco forest at the $1.3 million level. That is down from the last fiscal year's $2.9 million.
Region 6, which is made up of National Forests in Oregon and Washington, is funded from two kinds of timber money; the green program which involves timber sales of live trees and the salvage program. The latter program is a trust fund made up of receipts from the harvesting of salvage timber within the two state region. Since the middle 1970s, this fund has provided about half of the funding for the entire region.
Salvage timber harvesting, as well as live tree harvesting, is down everywhere in the region. This year, timber sales within the Ochoco NF will be reduced to 10 MMBF and only 45 MMBF on the Deschutes NF. This is down from the 90 MMBF that was part of the Ochoco National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan adopted in 1989.
This shortfall, Schuyler emphasis, is occurring on all the forests in Oregon and Washington, so it is not due to anything we did locally in central Oregon. "And we can't blame it on anyone in Washington, D.C. It is a problem unique to Region 6," he added, saying the result will be a reduced timber program (and is) limited to Oregon and Washington, for all the forest across the country.
Another result is the likelihood of reducing some permanent positions and a freeze on new hires, Schuyler continued. When asked if that means a layoff of some local personnel, he said no. "One of the biggest costs is salaries and wages, and one of the first places we're looking at is some level of reduction. However, that doesn't necessarily mean laying off personnel. Our objective is to retain people as much as we can."
Rather than letting people go, personnel could be transferred on a temporary basis to the Deschutes NF or elsewhere. "We would work to find them a job somewhere in the system ... a temporary assignment to somewhere," Schuyler said, adding that this is exactly what he is doing now. Schuyler is acting forest supervisor and has a residence in Baker City.
Other areas that will be looked into are supplies and vehicle purchases and some training programs. The headquarters on W. Third Street will remain open and, he said, "people outside the building won't see any change."
Although the budget is at this time only a 'working' budget, Schuyler doesn't believe the final funding will contain many surprises.