VERDI, Nev. – Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) proposes cutting $100 million in annual government subsidies to the timber industry to pay for a new Forest Restoration Corps (search) that would invest in the long-term health of national forests, his campaign said Tuesday.
Shifting spending from commercial logging operations on federal lands would create jobs while restoring forests, streams and rangelands that have been mismanaged or severely damaged by wildfires, campaign aides said.
The program — reminiscent of the Civilian Conservation Corps (search) that President Franklin D. Roosevelt (search) established during the Great Depression (search) — is one of the highlights in a three-page plan unveiled Tuesday near the site of a wildfire that burned 1,200 acres on the western edge of Reno two weeks ago.
A Kerry administration would pledge to budget annually to cover all federal firefighting costs, make necessary additions to aerial firefighting fleets, and focus reduction of fuels in overstocked forests on those areas posing the most immediate threats to communities, according to the plan.
Kerry would support "balanced forest management proposals and seek out input from the public rather than this extreme, one-sided approach benefiting big timber companies like the Bush administration has taken," said Sean Smith, Nevada communications director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign.
The $100 million for the Forest Restoration Corps would come out of the agency's timber program, Smith said, but the plan did not specify the accounts.
The Bush administration targets only about one-half of the Forest Service's fuels reduction program on areas closest to communities while Kerry would spend a minimum of 70 percent of that money on those areas, Smith said.
The Bush-Cheney campaign dismissed the proposal as campaign politics aimed at building support among environmentalists while ignoring concerns of mainstream Westerners.
"It's simply another example of John Kerry saying anything to anyone who is willing to listen in hope of getting elected," campaign spokesman Danny Diaz said Tuesday from Virginia.