Agency to take back timber money

Becky Bohrer / The Associated Press /

JUNEAU, Alaska — The U.S. Forest Service plans to take a portion of the timber payments it has promised or paid out to 22 states, citing federal budget cuts.

Collection letters from Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell went out to governors around the country Monday, saying money would be taken from funds used for habitat improvement and other national forest-related projects that put people to work under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.

Oregon stands to lose the most in the move, with nearly $4 million in reductions. That would leave the state with about $3.4 million under that program.

California would lose nearly $2.2 million, leaving it with about $1 million for the program. Idaho is set to lose $1.7 million, Montana nearly $1.3 million and Alaska, about $930,000 — nearly half the total allotment it had been expecting.

Earlier this year, Tidwell sent letters to 41 states, asking for the return of $17.9 million in timber payments used to pay for schools, roads, search and rescue operations in rural counties and conservation projects.

“We regret having to take this action, but we have no alternative under sequestration,” Tidwell said in his letter to Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, dated March 19.