Report: Firefighting costs eroding conservation

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Updated: 8/20 2:07 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is detailing the toll that the escalating cost of fighting forest fires has had on other projects as it pushes Congress to overhaul how it pays for the most severe blazes.

In a new report issued Wednesday, the Agriculture Department said that staffing for fighting fires has more than doubled since 1998.

Meanwhile, the number of workers who manage National Forest System lands has dropped by about a third.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that accommodating the rapid rise in firefighting costs has harmed an array of conservation efforts. For example, spending that helps restore vegetation and watersheds after a fire has fallen 22 percent since 2001.

The administration wants to use an already existing disaster relief fund to cover the expense of the most severe fires.

©2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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