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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : local February 26, 2015

2/28/2013 12:01:00 AM
The unkindest cuts: Sequester cuts could affect firefighting, recreation
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier, fileHotshot firefighters return to camp after battling the Lane 2 fire in 2008. 
If sequestration cuts take place starting tomorrow, the U.S. Forest Service may not be able to hire sufficient seasonal firefighters for the Southwest.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier, file
Hotshot firefighters return to camp after battling the Lane 2 fire in 2008. If sequestration cuts take place starting tomorrow, the U.S. Forest Service may not be able to hire sufficient seasonal firefighters for the Southwest.
Joanna Dodder Nellans
The Daily Courier

The federal government's sequester cuts are slated to take effect Friday just as national forests across the Southwest are trying to hire seasonal firefighters.

Sequestration cuts of $132 million in the Forest Service's wildland fire management budget put that budget $42 million below the average cost of just battling wildfires, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack wrote to the Senate Committee on Appropriations Feb. 5. The budget is also used to hire seasonal firefighters and conduct forest treatments to reduce wildfire danger.

"I find it very offensive that's where we've come to," U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar of Prescott said. The House Republicans have offered numerous alternatives to the sequester cuts for the last 300 days, he said, and "I'm getting a little tired of taking the blame" for the sequester cuts.

The Daily Courier was unable to assess the local impacts of Vilsack's letter because - unlike other federal agencies the Courier contacted - Vilsack is not allowing employees outside of Washington to discuss sequester issues.

The Courier was directed to a D.C. spokesperson for the USDA who didn't have answers to questions Wednesday about whether the Prescott National Forest is able to continue hiring seasonal employees, or even how many seasonals the forest planned to hire. The spokesperson, USDA Deputy Press Secretary Stephanie Chan, did send Vilsack's letter.

"Certain decisions may result in increased costs in the end," Vilsack wrote. "For example, the agency could reduce upfront costs by reducing use of exclusive use aviation contracts, 115 engines, and 10 hotshot crews.

"However, this could result in larger fires, which will result in higher expenditures."

Arizona State Forester Scott Hunt said he heard rumors that the Forest Service could delay hiring seasonal firefighters in this state, so he asked federal officials about it.

"I would hope they could apply some priority to folks fighting fire," Hunt said. "The word I had is, they felt they were in reasonable shape for the firefighting season."

The Forest Service also could close as many as 670 public developed recreation sites such as campgrounds, picnic areas and trailheads, Vilsack wrote. That could curtail 1.6 million visits and hurt rural economies, he wrote.

"Forest and watershed restoration work would be curtailed," he added.

The U.S. Forest Service is one of the major employers in Yavapai County. The Prescott Forest employs more than 100 full-time workers and hires at least three dozen seasonal workers related to wildfire suppression.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is continuing with its plans to hire 10 seasonal firefighting employees in Arizona because they are considered critical positions, said Pamela Mathis, Phoenix District public affairs specialist for the BLM.

It's hard to calculate the overall impact of the sequester on BLM seasonal firefighters right now, said Randy Eardley, BLM spokesman at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

"We're not likely to know until late in March when the continuing resolution (budget) we're currently under expires," Eardley said.

The National Park Service has put all regular and seasonal hiring on hold, said Dorothy FireCloud, superintendent for the three Park Service national monuments in Yavapai County.

The Park Service could end up closing the Montezuma Well National Monument near Rimrock in Yavapai County May 1 if the sequestration cuts continue, FireCloud said, so its employees could help staff the Montezuma Castle National Monument next to Camp Verde in the absence of seasonal employees. The well gets about 135,000 visitors annually, and is popular with locals.

"We're hoping it won't have more impact than that," FireCloud said. "We're still keeping our fingers crossed."

The Yavapai County monuments could use more volunteers to help reduce sequestration impacts, she said. People can call 928-567-3322, ext. 230, to talk to volunteer coordinator Case Griffing. The Park Service is even building trailer pads at the well to attract volunteers who could live on site.

The three Verde Valley monuments have a $28 million value-added impact on the local economy, FireCloud said.

"That's what we're worried about if we have to close or lower hours - the impact on the local economy," FireCloud said.

The BLM has one national monument in Yavapai County, the Agua Fria. The BLM has no plans to close it, Mathis said. Unlike the Park Service monuments, it's undeveloped with no visitor center.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2013
Article comment by: roger hall

Republicans in Congress offered nothing -- all they wanted to do was force Democrats to agree to cut medicare, medicaid, and social security. They insist on doing this while stating that loopholes for corporations and for the rich are off the table. This is fact. So guess who pays? The middle class so that the rich can continue to get richer. To simply blame Obama for this is ridiculous especially considering the fact that he is NOT responsible for setting budgets -- only the House can do that. Get that? The HOUSE with an approval rating of what? 12%? Which Republicans completely control. There's a reason why they have an approval rating of 12%. So if you like or take advantage of Social Security or Medicare, you're a fool if you support the very people who are trying to get rid of both! And don't tell me that they're not trying to get rid of it. What do you think vouchers are? That's in Ryan's budget! Sheesh. Stupid people.

Posted: Sunday, March 03, 2013
Article comment by: Oh come on

Even in the best of times the rightwing continues to demand cuts that benefit the people and not corporations.

Posted: Saturday, March 02, 2013
Article comment by: Mr Maverick

The Tea Party is ruining this country with their refusal to pass anything. Are they in Congress just to ruin our country? After 4 years of Obama and a steadily increasing economy many here seem confused. Our fiscal cliff was created by the Tea Party so how are they not the problem? I an a gun toting liberal and for those who need a reminder I have put the definition of a liberal from the dictionary. liberal a: of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts (liberal education) barchaic: of or befitting a man of free birth 2 a: marked by generosity : openhanded (a liberal giver) b: given or provided in a generous and openhanded way (a liberal meal)

Posted: Saturday, March 02, 2013
Article comment by: Have To Wonder


Posted: Saturday, March 02, 2013
Article comment by: @Mr. Maverick

You need to return to earth!

Posted: Saturday, March 02, 2013
Article comment by: USA Is No Longer

Obama sets his budget cuts for the important issues and releases illegals to do more drugs and gun running? This is a president? An arrogant and vengeful person I think. Cut back on the wasteful government departments and welfare and you'll have saved alot of wasted taxpayer's money. He is certainly not working for this country but against it, can't compromise and is not a leader but a dictator who wants everything his way.

Posted: Friday, March 01, 2013
Article comment by: Mr Maverick

This 'crisis' is an event made up by the 'tea party' in congress. They can undo it any time. Gosar and his buddies were not sent to Washington to do nothing but that's what they do. They create problems rather then fixing them.

Posted: Friday, March 01, 2013
Article comment by: Howdy So Simple, So Stupid

You said, "Do the math." So, let's do that. As of 10:30 PM, 27 Feb 13, the National debt is $16,613,000,000,000. If a person were able to count to this number saying each number in one second, it would take them 526,794 years!

Please define an "un-winable" war. Is it the War on Drugs, War on Poverty, War on Terrorism, etc?

There are "un-winable" wars on Immigration, government waste, global warming, etc.

What is your solution to make these Wars "winable"?

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Vince Broud

Oh my God. We are all going to die. Raise my taxes before it is too late. We have to do it for the children.
The opinion expressed above is that of the writer and definitely does not reflect the opinion of The Daily Courier, its staff, management or parent company.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: To Robert Bobs or Bobs Robert

I Won!! I did ANYthing with your name and didn't even rely on Fox News or Dittoheads.

I be done did what you does! I won an argruiment with that there logistical thing!

Sir/Ma'am/Other, in all seriousness, I must ask you a question. During the 2016 election campaign, will you be hurt when a candidate says, "President Obama left us with $20 Trillion debt."?

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: So simple So stupid

The cost of fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan for ONE year (2011) 127 billion. Do the math.
Also, check this out- defense gets 20 percent, while education only gets 2 percent. Science and medical research? You guessed it- 2 percent. I totally support our troops. and belive in a strong, superior military. We need to get out of an "un-winable" war and take care of our own problems in the U.S. first.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Andy Anderson

@Bob Roberts

Doesn't the president always get the blame? If you disagree, please refer to the country great prosperous years of growth, 2000-2008. You ate up every spoon-fed nugget MSN could give you, including the report that unemployment was too high (at a whopping 5%)

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Dick Marley

Why doesn't obama cut foreign aid, like the 2.2 billion dollars we send to Pakistan every year and the F-16's he sending to the muslim brotherhood in Egypt. The kenyan needs to go. I believe impeachment is in order.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Bob Roberts

I see the Fox News viewers and Dittoheads have been firmly convinced that the sequester is all Obama's fault but then they try to argue that it won't have any real effect.

Gotta love it when people are so partisan they will say ANYthing to win.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

Even the liberals aren't caring too much about this stuff. Evidently sending Ranger Rick home early isn't making them quake in their boots.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: You gotta love the Dems

No shame at all. Just saw a video clip where Maxine Waters (D-CA) at a press conference says 170,000,000 jobs will be lost due to sequestration (more than the entire working population of the USA). The difference in honesty between Maxine and the her liberal colleagues at the Courier is only a matter of degree. Sequestion cuts nothing except the size of the year over year increase in the federal budgets. After sequestion the Federal budget will still be higher this year than it was last year. You kind of think a newspaper might be honest about that "inconvenient truth" don't you?

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Wladislaw Grodek

@@ Wladislaw Grodek

"your comment is fiction. you were born in bulgaria about like obama was."

Ha! obama born KENYA! All know this! So dumb!

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Citizen Adolf

Let the left wing media present the cries of the wolf again. Let us print not one, but two stories that will drive the fear of Obama in to the hearts of the sheeple so that he may get his way.

Yet the promises of tax reform and balancing the budget still linger the background. Threats of taking away the guns of the citizens of the US and allowing the UN to have control over small arms.

Times are changing and people are waking up. It took 4 years and a few months for people to realize the lies promised to us by Obama and the peanut gallery. Fear being driven from the top down. There is a group in the middle east that does this same thing...and the leader was Osama.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: An American

It is only a decrease in the increase, for your government to imply they can no longer provide you with this service or that service, is rediculous. Ask them what they did last month, because they actually are recieving more money than last month, they are only whing that the increase was not as much as they wanted.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Just A Thought

More scare tactics! Whenever government wants more money, they threaten to cut teachers, police, and firefighters. Until public sector pensions and benefits are brought more in line with the private sector, they will not get my sympathy. Trust me folks, the sun will still come up tomorrow and the day after. Just a thought.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: @ Wladislaw Grodek

your comment is fiction. you were born in bulgaria about like obama was.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Ken Truitt

SHAME ON THE COURIER. The 2 front page articles about Sequester were irresponsible and unjournalistic. The front page is no place for rumors, speculation or editorial opinions. What ever happened to research and facts? If the "local impact remains unclear", shut up until you know what they are. Just another mouth-piece for the con artists in DC. Hopefully the folks in Prescott area are smart enough to ignore your sensational drivel.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Set Your Priorities, Obama

and stop campaigning with your BS and lies. You can afford to use AF1 for golfing and your wife to attend the hollywood celebrations, but can't seem to find all the unnecessary fraud and waste that your administration spews out. So glad I didn't vote for this amateur loser some call a president.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Ken Truitt

Debating Sequester is a waste of time. The real issue is the crap that is coming of the District of Corruption and the fact the Courier swallowed it and perpetuated it. SHAME ON THE COURIER for pretending to be journalistic while dealing in fantasy rather than facts. The article entitled"..... local impact remains unclear" is a perfect example of bufoonery. If it is unclear, shut up until you can report facts rather than rumor and opinion. Save the editorials for the editorial page.

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Article comment by: Another Opinion

There are no necessary cuts needed. The budget with the cuts is higher than last year.

However MSNBC will not report that fact.

If any cuts are made, cut the fat in the budget. Travel budgets, empty warehouses, overspending on inventory. (toothbrushes at $20 a piece.)

Americans, by a huge majority will NOT accept any cuts to important programs when there is so much fat to cut.

Dems will not be able to sell this line of BS to any thinking American.

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